Driving designer business to your kitchen-and-bath showroom requires planning and attention to detail. Getting inside the head of an interior designer and thinking like one also would help boost this part of your business.
That was the consensus of four panelists enlisted by the American Supply Association’s Showroom Managers Peer Networking Council for an educational workshop presented Jan. 20 during the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. Speaking at the early-morning, well-attended event were Tim Stumm, showroom manager of Morrison Supply’s Expressions Home Gallery in Dallas; Kelly Litton, showroom and territory manager for Delta Faucet’s Dream2O in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart; John Petrie, owner of Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, Pa.; and Bruce Graf, owner of Graf Developments in Grand Prairie, Texas.
“How do we engage designers in our showroom?” Litton asked. “We think like them! We utilize experts like event planners. We support their causes.”
Hosting annual events in your showroom builds anticipation, she noted. They also establish a predictable connection between your company and the design community. Events that offer continuing education units are a good way to build loyalty among designers, Stumm said. Attention to detail during events is important to make sure music as well as food and beverage offerings match designers’ tastes.
Attention to detail extends to the showroom space and its staff, he said. The showroom must be inspected daily, both inside and outside. Staff members must dress appropriately to project a professional appearance. They must be well-trained to position themselves as experts on whose advice designers can rely. Staff must follow up after a sale with a same-day email and thank-you note.
An area inside the showroom dedicated to designers and their clients will help differentiate your company, Stumm said. The space could be a conference room with a good-sized table where designers can lay out plans and discuss options and pricing.
Citing information from the American Society of Interior Designers, Stumm said products specified by U.S. and Canadian designers this year will exceed $68.5 billion, which is a 35% increase from 2010. Of the currently employed 60,824 interior designers, 63% specify kitchen-and-bath faucets and fixtures and 67% specify accessories.
Unlike other segments of the construction industry that are having a hard time attracting workers, the number of interior designers has grown by 10,000 since 2012. Employment growth of interior designers is expected to outpace the average for all occupations in the economy through 2022. The number of design firms has increased by 7.5% to 13,257. Another contrast with most of the rest of the construction industry is 90% of designers are women and 10% are men.
ASID predicts these top trends for 2016: Integrating technology with interior design; sustainability; blending workplace and residential spaces; and stay-in-place kitchen and bath remodeling projects. Declining trends include: Single-family homes increasing in size and sourcing products from overseas.
If you don’t know what your competitive advantage is in attracting designers to your showroom, Stumm suggested asking your customers what they say about you. “What do you brag about?” he asked, as another way to identify your competitive advantage. “What do your current competitors brag about?”