Kitchen and bath showrooms have long been all about the “show.” But in a world of smart phones, HD TVs, tech-savvy consumers and “virtual” realities, a good part of that “show” will increasingly be taking place on the screen of a computer, phone or TV.
Indeed, technology is likely to dramatically impact the size, design and use of kitchen and bath showrooms over the next five years (see related Editorial, Page 7). At the same time, showrooms are expected to be smaller, with more environmentally friendly products and flexible, interactive displays.
That’s according to a new survey conducted by the Charlotte, NC-based Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) on behalf of Kitchen & Bath Design News, which polled 382 kitchen and bath dealers to determine how showrooms are used, what marketing tools and activities best generate business and what’s in store for the future of kitchen and bath showrooms.
According to the survey, the median square footage for kitchen and bath showrooms is 2,400 square feet, with one in six saying their showroom is 5,000 square feet or larger. One in six said they will be expanding their showroom in the coming year.
However, among those planning to open a showroom in the next 12 months who don’t currently have one, that number drops to a median of only 1,400 square feet, supporting the idea that showrooms of the future will likely be smaller than they are today. Even many dealers who are currently expanding their showrooms expressed the belief that, in the future, showrooms will likely focus on greater efficiencies rather than increased square footage.
One survey respondent has taken the trend toward downsizing even further, noting, “We changed from a full-scale showroom to a mobile showroom, where we take samples to the customer. This keeps overhead costs down, and those savings can be passed on to our customers, who have become price conscious but still want top quality products.”
While the economy is certainly factoring into this evolution to smaller showrooms, many dealers agree that technology is also a key factor in the downsizing trend.
As one respondent says, “I believe demands for physical showroom space will decrease as ‘virtual’ showrooms increase. I now showcase samples as opposed to the full kitchen displays that were used in the past. Smaller vignettes are more flexible and easier to change to keep the space looking fresh.”
Another dealer agrees: “I think showrooms are going to be concentrating on fewer products and utilizing Web sites more to show other products available.”
“You’re going to see smaller showrooms with more technology and less emphasis on brands as consumers continue to increase their purchases on the Internet,” points out yet another dealer.
But, it’s not just about technology; it’s also about convenience. As one dealer states, “I see closing the large showrooms and moving toward opening small showrooms in several locations to make sure companies are at a convenient reach to the market.”
TECHNOLOGY AT WORK
While today’s kitchen and bath dealers are far from techno wizards, most are using the basic tools, with 90% having a business Web site, 85% using desktop computers, 70% using laptops, 50% using social networking and 49% using smart phones for their businesses (see Graph 1). However, far fewer are using more advanced showroom technology right now: Only 27% use email campaigns, 26% showcase projects or ads for their business via HD/Plasma TVs in their showroom, 22% use Web conferencing or online meetings, 21% use online advertising, 18% use paid search engine placement, 14% use large projection screens for presentations, 12% use tablets (such as an iPad) or blogs/forums, 10% use enewsletters, and a mere 2% use streaming video.