While many showrooms are geared toward industry professionals, some also focus on homeowners to increase their business.
In a marketplace where every inch of showroom floor space is seen as valuable "real estate," dealers can benefit from tips shared by their successful counterparts.
"We've had the unique opportunity over the past several years to conduct in-depth interviews with dealers on their successful showroom tactics," says Brad Johnson, vice president of marketing for Therma-Tru Corp. "We believe those insights should be shared so that other companies can grow their businesses based on proven ideas in the marketplace.
According to Robert J. Loranger, president of Loranger Door & Window Co. Inc. in Maine, having a well-appointed conference room within a showroom is critical for building traffic. "Builders can reserve the conference room to review plans with their clients," says Loranger. "During this process we encourage them to visit the showroom to show homeowners the products they're discussing and recommending.
"We've definitely seen our sales and margins grow since adding the showroom. A key aspect to retaining this continued growth is to keep the showroom updated with new products."
For Hartville Hardware in Hartville, Ohio, return on investment is a key factor in gauging the success of their 8,000-square foot showroom that opened in 2012. "Our sales at Hartville Hardware were up more than 35 percent for the main product lines we feature in our showroom over the first 12 months since the opening," says Scott Sommers, lumber division manager at Hartville Hardware. "We're also benefiting because the new location is selling more higher-end products."
In Altoona, Pennsylvania, Your Building Centers maximizes their 10,000-square foot showroom by providing 24-hour access for their partnered builders and remodelers who meet certain purchasing criteria. "We listened to our partnered customers," says Dean Conrad, vice president of purchasing and marketing for Your Building Centers. "They asked for a location that showcases major product lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ... and we delivered."
While many showrooms are geared toward industry professionals, some also focus on homeowners to increase their business. "We've thought ahead for the professional who is bringing in consumers," says Bob Lane, vice president of sales for Moehl Millwork based in Des Moines, Iowa. "We offer complimentary refreshments, have toys for children to play with so the parents can focus on purchase decisions, and provide great one-on-one attention so the consumer feels comfortable with their product choices.
"Once at our showroom, the customer can pick out everything from high-end cabinetry to custom-made windows to entry door systems. Variety makes our showroom different in our marketplace."
As many dealers know, showroom excellence would be impossible to achieve without the support of quality manufacturer partners.
"We looked at strength of the company, product selection, warranty and field representation when selecting brands for our showroom," says Steve Caudill, general manager of ProBuild Wilmington in North Carolina. "These were all critical issues that led to our strategic alliance with key suppliers."
At Kight Home Center in Indiana, the decision on which entry door manufacturer to partner with rested on a union with a reliable distributor. "We changed from another brand to Therma-Tru in order to give our customers quality products," says Troy Kough, president of Kight Home Center. "We had confidence in the quality of Therma-Tru's product to begin with, but we needed the support of a solid distributor like Lumbermen's that could give us the product training, inventory, selection and quality of finished goods in order to retain our position as the leader in exterior doors in our market.
"We've maintained our margins and increased our sales by approximately seven percent. With the new complete door unit displays (instead of the slab displays we had before) we're definitely seeing an increase in sales of our higher-end Classic Craft doors, which is a big win for us."
According to Johnson at Therma-Tru, dealer support is a top priority for the entry door manufacturer.
"We customize support to the needs of our dealers with the focus on helping them educate and sell to their audiences," says Johnson. "For space and cost savings, Therma-Tru created a television display to showcase our full line of glass options which has been very well received in the marketplace.
"From door system swing and revolver units to pull-up banners and door cutaways, our customer support materials are crafted with showroom space considerations in mind. Whether a dealer has room for literature racks or quarter door samples, we have what's needed to help close the sale."
Following the example of Dan Sullivan, general manager at Kelly-Fradet Lumber in Connecticut, dealers should refresh their showrooms with an eye toward return-on-investment. "Almost every showroom improvement we make affects our sales in a positive way," says Sullivan. "Showcasing some of the higher-end products and different product options often leads us to increased sales. By offering more options and information to our customers, it gives us the opportunity to take care of them."
Pete Vitola, vice president of Beeson Hardware and Lumber Company out of High Point, North Carolina, reports that all his company's displays are built into walls to give customers a better idea of what the product will look like in a home. "My biggest tip to other dealers is to imitate this idea," says Vitola. "Put your displays in walls and not on rollers --- it makes a big difference."
Finally, dealers can take a winning idea from Ocean Springs Lumber & Supply Co. out of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Ocean Springs features an interactive "walk through" showroom experience on the company website via their EveryScape tool.
"The 360-degree virtual tour of our entire facility --- including the showrooms, warehouse and retails sales floor --- allows people the convenience of 'deep diving' into our company while online," says Russell Oakes, millwork specialist at Ocean Springs Lumber & Supply Co. "That helps set the stage for a positive in-store experience." PR