Atlantic Plumbing Supply doubled sales at a showroom with a little help from its friends.

Atlantic Plumbing Supply, Long Branch, NJ, faced a formidable challenge in May 2007 as it opened a 2,200-sq.-ft. showroom in the face of a pending economic downturn. On the plus side, the new showroom was in a busy traffic area and shared building space with a Sipersteins Paint and Decorating Centers store. Side by side, both storefronts are visible to traffic and passersby, enabling the showroom to attract lots of walk-ins and shoppers from Sipersteins, in addition to regular trade customers. Showroom Manager Susan Ciambrone saw collaborative opportunities not only with Sipersteins, but also with designers, architects and plumbers who brought their clients with them. Providing the keystone were manufacturer partners like American Standard Brands, who have helped catapult sales for The Showroom at Atlantic 100% since opening.

“Our original Long Branch location was off the beaten path and more geared to the trade,” says Ciambrone. “We now have a beautiful, studio-like gallery showroom layout that’s more retail-oriented, which inspires people to linger and return. It’s also updated with high-quality products like American Standard Brands’ Jado and Porcher lines, and has working shower and faucet displays, which customers really love!”

Of the four Atlantic Plumbing Supply Co. locations in New Jersey, The Showroom at Atlantic in Long Branch is the premier center. Collaborating with plumbers, designers, architects and other professionals has played a major role in the showroom’s fast foothold in the new location and its overall success.

Products such as these offered by American Standard Brands have drawn more customers to the showroom.

Need friends? Host a party!

Ciambrone doesn’t count on customers finding the showroom on their own. In 2008 she joined the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and embarked on a three-week “Save the Date” postcard mailing campaign inviting local interior designers for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The atmosphere was festive, friendships were born and referrals were shared. The Showroom at Atlantic team also worked an ASID tradeshow booth that resulted in great exposure and lots of interest and inquiries.

In addition to designers, Ciambrone cultivated existing local plumber and vendor accounts of Atlantic Plumbing Supply Co., which has been in business for 30 years. The Showroom at Atlantic hosted a breakfast to show appreciation for their loyalty. Manufacturer partners have also played an integral role in attracting new business. For example, American Standard Brands held a barbeque event that included a trailer with working fixtures and components, so plumbers could try out the products.

Don't forget to invite the next-door neighbor

Ciambrone immediately saw opportunities in collaborating with Sipersteins Paint and Decorating Centers. The Showroom at Atlantic held its soft opening event together with their building-mate, which forged a close friendship in the beginning and set the stage for crossover customers. While the storefronts are separate and the environments completely different, the showroom and Sipersteins are open to each other, so customers can easily go back and forth between the two spaces. The two joined forces to sponsor a local chamber of commerce evening event, which brought in many common-interest attendees.

Ciambrone and her team have found that to grow the business and keep it vibrant they need to stay in touch with their trade partners and attract new ones through mailers and brochures. Since there are many older homes in the area and little ground to build on, The Showroom’s promotional efforts have resulted in lots of remodel business. Many customers are looking to redo their entire bath.

“One of our main objectives is to educate customers on the importance of visiting us, so we can establish a relationship with them as opposed to them buying on the Internet,” says Ciambrone. “In a showroom, you can see and touch the product. It’s also so important to have someone you can trust who can help you with issues, handle warranties, and so on. On the Internet, you’re on your own, and the warranties would be limited.”

Ciambrone is also focused on doing what it takes to keep her customers coming back - providing exceptional customer service. “We don’t turn anyone away if they don’t have an appointment,” she says. “We do take appointments so we can give our undivided attention, but, unlike many showrooms, we do our utmost to provide the same level of customer service for walk-ins.”

The showroom staff also goes the extra mile to collaborate with contractors, plumbers and installers to provide information to customers who become overwhelmed with the installation process.

Choose your friends well

Collaboration with the right manufacturer partners is key to driving new business, according to Ciambrone.

“Representatives of American Standard Brands often assist with events and it’s been extremely helpful to have their expertise present. They’ve also referred lots of local customers to our showroom. “Quality product that’s popular with customers also helps draw in traffic. American Standard Brands’ Champion 4 toilet, which was rated number one by a major consumer magazine, is one of our best sellers,” says Ciambrone. “In fact, we display all the Champion models, which really helps sales.”

She adds that Americast bathtubs, Porcher bath vanities and both the Jado and Porcher branded products attract customer attention.

 “We have a lot of Jado and Porcher on the floor,” says Ciambrone. “There’s a very rich, sophisticated European flair about these designs that draws customers. The bath suites, especially the Calla II Suite, do very well. American Standard Brands’ Modern Rain Showerhead, with its contemporary style and unique square design, is another magnet in our working shower display. Customers just love how the water is dispensed in a square pattern!”

Friendships yield profits

“It’s hard to gauge where we might be in more favorable economic conditions, but in spite of the challenges, we’ve doubled our sales numbers by working together with manufacturer and trade partners to provide product and service that’s outstanding,” says Ciambrone.