In 1986 the Decorative Plumbing andHardwareCouncil was started as a division of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. I was honored to head up this council for the first several years of its existence. Our numbers grew to about 120 dealer members. Manufacturers and reps had to join their own respective councils, but we all worked together for the betterment of the industry. 

The DPH Council thrived until members recognized they always would be an adjunct to the kitchen side of the NKBA. Several folks left and in 2002 the new Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association was born. One of the major advantages of the new group was that membership was open to all segments (dealers, wholesalers, manufacturers and manufacturers reps). The new organization grew rapidly. A combination of a downturn in the economy and a change of the professional management of the organization led to some bumps in the road.  Today, the original management is back in place and the economy has recovered, helping the DPHA do better than ever before.

Today the DPHA membership consists of 103 dealers (which include independently owned showrooms and plumbing wholesalers), 120 manufacturers, 52 manufacturers reps and 15 professional members. I am a member of the latter group. Education is the main focus of the organization, but there is a long list of other member benefits. The organization hosts one large conference a year in October where manufacturers’ products are showcased. Additionally, there always is an excellent list of educational speakers.

There are a number of wholesaler members and I believe every one of them would say their membership in DPHA has helped them understand the retail side of the business, which in turn has made their showroom business more successful.


Elite eight

Below are some of the benefits a DPHA membership provides:

  1. A library of electronic manufacturer product and training videos easily accessible for downloading to use in the showroom or on desktop computers.
  2. A comprehensive training program, including a 22-volume compendium that combines technical training, product knowledge and sales guidance for selling in premium and luxury showrooms.
  3. A program that offers formal recognition for decorative plumbing and hardware professionals while boosting staff morale, helping with team building and providing defined career paths for sales teams.
  4. Product-training webinars that help showrooms keep their fingers on the pulse of their industry’s latest developments.
  5. Consumer message brochures for use on websites, social media and on the showroom floor explaining why a showroom should be the destination of choice for purchasing decorative plumbing and hardware.
  6. Newsleak, a semiannual magazine featuring the industry’s most successful practices, new product information, industry updates and solutions to common problems faced by showrooms and sales professionals on a daily basis.
  7. Connections, a weekly update of industry developments, new product announcements, sales tips and association news that help showrooms positively differentiate their offerings from competition only capable of taking orders.
  8. An annual conference that serves as a venue for manufacturers to introduce new products, to network with industry peers, exchange ideas and obtain competitive advantages.


Making life easier

DPHA also offers a variety of programs that save time and money with the goal of making a member’s life less stressful.

  1. DPHA has a members’ only website offering model employee manuals, job descriptions, information exchanges and discussion forums addressing the leading issues of the day.
  2. DPHA’s TransFirst credit-card payment solution program is quick and easy and determines if your business is getting the best rates for credit-card processing. TransFirst provides a free savings analysis of your current credit-card processing rates and finds savings for more than 70% of those undergoing the analysis.
  3. The group’s UPS shipping savings program provides discounted rates and special promotional pricing exclusively to DPHA members.
  4. Materials and templates, including sample job descriptions, and employee and employer support materials to provide DPHA members with resources and knowledge to assist in their roles.


A sample offering

The following is an excerpt from DPHA’s Dec. 4, 2015, issue of its e-newsletter Connections. The topic is three trends that shout competitive differentiation.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for brick-and-mortar decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms. Why?  Because the Internet has created an overwhelming and mind-numbing information overload that has resulted in a cacophony of claptrap and consumer confusion. Alexander Pope said it best, ‘A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ Sure, customers can go online and find almost anything they desire within a few clicks of a mouse, but will they find the unique, the different or the perfect solution? Most likely not!

Trend 1: Mindless overconsumption has created a new trend among your customer base that is an asset to showrooms that understand and make a plan on how to capitalize on the opportunity. Most of your customer base can already buy whatever they want and most likely have more than they need. Fashion retailer Cuyana, which operates boutiques online and in brick-and-mortar locations in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, understands this trend and is capitalizing on it with this powerful message:

We believe in style over trends, in quality over quantity, in loving your closet. We believe that fewer, better things lead to a fuller, better life.

Bingo! That’s the message showrooms need to deliver. When you are competing against the BMW, a Caribbean cruise, a Tiffany purchase or the ability to create a new kitchen, which will lead to a fuller, better life? Craft your messages and showroom experience around the theme of how you can create better life experiences for your customers. 

Trend 2: There is an unquenchable thirst for a more meaningful experience that can’t be replicated elsewhere. The hospitality industry is trying to capture business travelers’ hearts and wallets by providing differentiators that make their customers feel good about staying in their properties. Showrooms can provide their customers more meaningful experiences that are unique by designing space and specifying products that make their customers feel good about their kitchens and baths and the products they put in them.

Trend 3 is the use of fame as a cultural tool. George Clooney recently appeared in his first commercial. Clooney agreed to be Nespresso’s pitch person if the company started to sell coffee from South Sudan and revive an industry that all but disappeared during decades of civil war.

What can showrooms do to use fame culture as a tool? Plan a campaign around World Toilet Day by donating a percentage of every water-closet sale to the effort to bring sanitation to parts of the world where there is no running water or access to bathrooms. Partner with Rebuilding Together or another similar charity that helps the less fortunate. It’s about making a difference and giving back to your community that is resonating with customers.  Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg and his wife, Pricilla Chan, announced they have committed to donating almost their entire fortune to charity. This gesture was front-page news with almost every major media outlet.

Themes of owning fewer and better-quality products, making a difference in the community and delivering compelling, unique experiences are right in a showroom’s wheelhouse. How can you leverage these trends to reinforce your position as the destination of choice for everything decorative plumbing and hardware in your market?” 

I hope you agree that was a powerful message endorsing the future of brick-and-mortar showrooms.

I encourage you to research DPHA. Google them. Call them. Touch base with friends and peers who already are members and see if you don’t agree this would be a great benefit to your business, your showroom team and your showroom vendor partners. Don’t try to invent the showroom wheel by yourself. It’s already been invented.

Good selling!