I work hard at trying to keep abreast of what’s happening out there. Since we sold our business 15 years ago, I’ve had to keep my finger on the pulse of our great industry through my many consulting clients and friends - good friends that I’ve had the pleasure of networking with throughout the years. These friends and sources of information are from all three segments of the DPH industry: dealers, reps and manufacturers.
Several times a year people will ask me if I don’t miss owning and operating my own showroom business. My reply is, “Sure I miss the many challenges of managing 35+ employees, the opportunity to be creative and forward thinking, and I especially miss the people (our customers, reps and employees). BUT (yes, a big ‘BUT’), I really don’t miss the everyday trials and tribulations of running a business.” And boy, am I glad I haven’t had to live through the last two or three years. Certainly this is the most challenging economic time of my lifetime.
In the last few days I’ve called several of my clients and friends to find out what they are doing to keep their businesses strong in these dramatically challenging times. Here are just a few things that I know you’ve experienced:
- Fewer people coming into the showroom
- A lot less new construction
- Smaller, less expensive projects
- Many more budget-conscious shoppers
- A much more competitive market place
- The ever-growing presence of Internet shopping
- Your salespeople needing to become more than just order
- Fewer dollars available for marketing and merchandising
- And of course, across-the-board belt tightening
In spite of all these (and I’m sure many more) challenges, I’m sensing a lot of very good things happening. Many of you aren’t just sitting there saying, “Poor me!”. You’re doing some very creative things to drive more traffic into the showroom and to close a higher percentage of your opportunities.
Allow me to share some of the very inspired and innovative things I’ve learned by talking to a dozen or so showroom owners and managers recently. I came away pleased and impressed by the resiliency, perseverance and creativity that these folks have demonstrated in the toughest of tough times. I also know that there are a lot of other things that you folks have done/are doing to not only survive, but thrive. I’d love it if you’d email me with some of your creative experiences. I can foresee a second article on this exciting subject.
Here are some things that are taking place out there:
- Don’t cut discounts - move the client into a more competitively
- Bring in more competitively priced products.
- Consolidate lines - be more important to fewer vendors.
- Get away from quoting list less a discount. Quote a net price
- Get away from across-the-board discounting. Go deep on the commodity items, but make more on the other 80% of the products.
- Develop a tagline that suggests you have products for all
price ranges. For example: “Who knew style could be so affordable?” or “Luxury
on any budget” or “Bath in a Box - $2,000 will get you a new bathroom.”
- The most important way to help erase the “high price” perception is to make sure a salesperson gets face-to-face with every customer and lets them know that you have products/solutions for every budget range. If a customer comes in, walks around admiring your beautiful space and leaves without a “face-to-face,” that customer will leave with a perception that you only sell high-end products - and they’ll tell their friends and neighbors. Be proactive. Advertise the fact that you have multiple price ranges and tell them at every opportunity. Two folks I talked with have created a “more competitively priced” product area. They have put the lower-priced products in one area. After they have determined that this is truly a lower budget project, they take the customer directly to this area.
I learned of several more creative ideas that folks are doing, but am out of space for this article. Please email me some of the things you’ve done and/or are doing and I’ll include them in my next article.
I want to thank the following people for sharing their time and the creative things that they’ve incorporated into their businesses to help fight these tough times: Judy Eaton, director of showrooms for Consolidated Supply, Tigard, OR; Nancy Becker, director of showrooms for Torrington Supply, Waterbury, CT; Joel Seltzer, national sales manager for showrooms, Morrison Supply, Houston, TX; Vicki Findley Pfeil, owner, Miller’s Fine Decorative Hardware, Jupiter FL; Jeff Burton, owner, The Bath & Beyond, San Francisco, CA.