I’ve visited a number of showrooms the past several months and found they look pretty much the way they did 10 and even 20 years ago.
There are slat walls with faucet pods all around the walls, “lav” trees spread out here and there and kitchen sinks in countertops with pullout drawers below. Many of the showrooms are still using “free” displays they were able to negotiate from their vendors. Unfortunately, very few product updates have been done because of the belt tightening you’ve had to do in order to survive the worst business conditions I’ve seen in my career.
This coupled with the revolution and evolution of technology prompted me to start wondering what the “showroom of the future” might look like. A lot of what I’m about to share has been derived from Darlington’s “crystal ball.” Some of it comes from several people I believe have been and will continue to be on the “cutting edge” of the new look in decorative plumbing and hardware (and more) showrooms.
I continue to be disappointed by the lack of creativity and professionalism in the look of many of your showrooms. It’s been a big “follow the leader,” “copy the other guy” way of business. In my opinion many of the “leaders” and “other guys” haven’t done a very good job in the design, layout and merchandising of their showrooms. The standard isn’t what it could have been.
I am not, and never have professed to be a showroom designer. But, I am a pretty darn good marketer. I went to merchandising school several years ago, have written articles and presented workshops on the subject. As part of this schooling I visited some of the best retail stores in America and compared how our industry merchandises its products to how these stores do it. The comparison is embarrassing.
That’s enough negativity and beating up on you folks. I wanted to get your attention and get you thinking about what you can do to become better merchandisers and marketers.
You are selling some very expensive, great looking products. They need to be displayed and represented in keeping with the quality and value they have. You need to stop thinking wholesale and start thinking retail. You need to go to school on the subject like I did and like the retail pros have. It’s not hard to do and it’s fun.
So what does Darlington’s crystal ball reveal about showrooms of the future?
First, I believe they will be smaller. You will be able to tell your story in a 3,500- sq.-ft. showroom for smaller- and medium-size geographic marketplaces and maybe 5,000 sq. ft. in bigger cities.
I believe they will be located in much more customer-friendly shopping areas such as higher-end, easier to get to retail complexes.
Everything about the showrooms of the future will be more customer friendly. The hours of operation will be consistent with other high-end products for the home. Yes, that means being open on Saturdays, Sundays and some evenings. I know that you just shuddered at that thought, but I’m sorry. You will have to put your customers’ desires first.
The showrooms will have a much more boutique look and feel. They won’t show and sell nearly as many different manufacturers that are represented today. They will feature your branded products and well-known brands more exclusive to you in your area. In other words, not everyone in your marketplace will be selling all the same products. You won’t be a “me too” as so many of you are today.
Everything about the showroom will be high tech. Each sales consultant will have an iPad (or something equivalent). All products will have QRC codes with your own in-house product number and your own net price (no more list price less a discount). Customers will be given a mini iPad or smartphone and be able to look up every item showing all the variations of style, color, finish and price. The customer, with the sales consultant’s help, will develop
its own takeoff and quotation.
There will be several flat-screen TVs with continuous running infomercials on your company and your vendor partners. There will be several strategically located kiosks so customers can stop and learn more about a specific vendor or product. The iPad, smartphones, flat-screen TVs and kiosks will feature both visual and audio components and offer three-dimensional and virtual viewings.
Your sales consultants will be very knowledgeable on products, design and installation. You will finally realize that yours is a selling business and you will have spent the time, energy and money to teach your sales staff those all-important selling skills. Yours truly will be so happy when you figure this out.