Think about trying to work in a cluttered office: It’s not a pretty sight, nor an environment that is conducive to efficient production or creativity.
Now, transfer that undesirable environment to a showroom setting. Imagine yourself as a customer walking into a cluttered showroom. What’s your first impression? Do you get the feeling that the owners don’t have a lot of pride, or put a lot of care into their business?
Today, that initial impression is more critical than ever. That’s because our newest generation of consumers – Gen Y – favors a clean, open and uncluttered living and shopping environment. You can see their influence in today’s home designs, which eliminate walls to emphasize wide-open living space. You also see it in the showrooms of companies like Apple, a firm that’s successfully captured the attention of today’s hip Gen Y consumer. The neat, clean image of Apple’s showrooms carries over even to their advertising and marketing materials – it’s an integrated piece of the company’s image.
I broached the issue of showroom clutter in an earlier column, but I thought I should dive deeper into the matter because it can be such a turn-off, yet it is so simple to control.
You probably take the time to frequently scan your showroom to note the appearance of your displays to be sure they are enticing, relevant and play to your customers’ imaginations.
But have you taken the time to walk through your showroom, looking at it through the eyes of a customer, for the sole purpose of detecting unattractive and distracting clutter? Identifying clutter is the first and most important step in determining how to eliminate it.
The showroom front entry is a key area to consider since it’s the “draw” into your showroom and your first opportunity to turn off your consumer. It also speaks volumes about your business. Do outdated, sun-faded signs remain on walls and windows? Are brochures lying sloppily about? Your entranceway makes the all-important first impression. Keep it neat and tidy to make that first impression a positive one.
Next, let’s look at the reception area. You should check to be sure that counter surfaces are clean and uninterrupted except for items that are intentionally placed for impact and appeal. Check behind the receptionist’s chair, on the floor and to the sides. Do you see piles of files lying there that may have been collecting dust for months, or even years? Is the area a drop-off region for deliveries that never seem to find their intended home? Is your office supply area exposed to the eyes of visitors? If so, a door may be a good investment.
How about your display areas? How many signs are on the counters or walls? Are they uniform and professionally created and applied? Are the floor and sides clear around the signage areas to give “breathing room,” visually and mentally?
Another easy place to grow clutter – and quickly – is your selection area. Of course, when a project is in the works, or just after a meeting, piles and extra items that are pulled into this area are typically visible, waiting to be returned. But too often the return just doesn’t happen soon enough. Check the corners on the floor in this area. Are sample boards and doors still sitting out a day or two after a meeting?
Consider maintaining a designated, out-of-sight holding area to keep a customer’s samples if required, or eliminate loose samples being scattered about by utilizing a “display rail” for sitting samples.
Last, but not least, don’t forget to check your restrooms. In a showroom dedicated to selling bathrooms, is your restroom worthy? Or is it also a storeroom for extra literature, light bulbs and cleaning supplies – kind of like the corner gas station?
Be sure this area is respectful to your visitor. Why shouldn’t your working bathroom be as clean and beautiful as your showroom bath vignettes? Woman shoppers in particular value a well-appointed ladies room. Providing it speaks to your care and concern for your customers.
Clutter is especially hard to control within a showroom environment for many reasons. For example, what is your definition of clutter and why is it there? Whose clutter is it? Who put it there?
Some clutter may be there due to lack of awareness. It may be so much a part of the scenery that you and your staff no longer see it. Some may be there because somebody finds it necessary or convenient to have it there. It may be things that people think they will use during the course of the day. You might adopt the following rule: If you’re not using it now, put it away. The inconvenience of having to retrieve it later pales in comparison to the inconvenience of turning off a customer.
You may find it helpful to bring in a pair of eyes from the outside to assess your clutter situation. Ask a friend to look around through the eyes of a customer. Or, if you want to get a professional opinion, consider hiring a home stager or organizer. A real estate agent probably can refer somebody. You may be very surprised by what somebody from the outside will find.
Once you’ve determined that you have a clutter problem, what can you do about it?
Here are some suggestions that have worked.
Own it – Assign a “clutter buster” to make routine patrols to nip any potential problem in the bud. Choose a person who can do the job without making everybody crazy.
Schedule it – Put a clutter prevention plan in place and be sure to stick to it.
Audit It – Check your plan and your results to see whether you’ve accomplished your mission.
Identify it – Note all paths and areas where it’s necessary to eliminate clutter. Looking at key function areas is a great place to start. Identify specific locations for items that tend to become clutter – such as samples and literature. As the good neighbor, you may allow local organizations to place brochures or fliers in your window or near your entranceway. At the very least, maintain an organized holder system for like items. Be sure to keep the important lines of sight clear and focused on the kitchen and bath displays.
Have a Reward System – Clutter comes on quickly and quietly and can take over your showroom before you realize it, so consider implementing a reward system to keep it clutter free.
Even if Gen Y consumers are not shopping with you yet, they are vital to your future sales potential. You’ll need to offer an enticing atmosphere to keep them in your showroom. Once they arrive, you want them to connect to you and your products and not the distractions around them.
Our business can involve a complicated shopping experience that often requires multiple decisions and appointments. Moving forward with a clean, uncluttered showroom is important to ensure that your consumer will embrace the shopping and decision-making processes necessary to get our industry growing.