Selling Shower Systems in the ‘New Economy’

Incorporating functional, plumbed water displays in your kitchen and bath showroom is a great way to encourage experience and set your business apart. Customers better appreciate and understand what they can experience first-hand.

Unfortunately, showers and plumbing fixtures are not always operational in many showrooms. More often, their perceived hassle – moisture, cleanup, expense – deters owners from taking this important investment step.

Without a word, an attractive, functional shower display can do about 75 percent of your selling communication for you. It lets customers view the components as well as hear and feel the spray – a multi-sensory experience that lets them more effectively evaluate the product’s performance. This interaction is especially important with higher-end products. Without it, customers are limited to style and price comparisons only. A value-added experience increases the odds that your customers will buy and, more importantly, stay and complete the purchase with you.

Shifting demographics are presenting new challenges. Tech-savvy, highly informed, perceptive and confident, younger consumers are seeking engagement at the point of sale. Otherwise, they could simply buy a showerhead on the Internet and have it delivered to their homes.

They want a relationship with the brand, a connection gained through a memorable and participatory shopping experience. More consumers are feeling greater buying confidence due to access to information over the Internet.

The best way to reach these customers is to maximize their involvement in the process. Establish an enjoyable, experiential environment that inspires shoppers to try – and to buy.


From steam baths to whirlpools, rain showerheads to body-spray systems, the ultimate pampering experience occurs in the bath. What better way to invigorate the senses and create a strong impression with your customers than through persuasively merchandised bath fixtures?

Linda Kirby, a 22-year expert in plumbing and showroom design who recently started her own consulting business, offers some valuable insight. She talks about the importance of a showroom that visitors can interact with, focusing on live water displays that allow customers to experience the product. However, she notes, not every showroom requires that level of large-scale interaction. Store size, brand and product selection, customer expectations and other practical considerations will all help determine what approach makes the most sense for your business. Remember, even a smaller showroom can establish an experience area that works with the available space and budget.

“The interactive experience will never replace the personal touch, or the sales associate who guides the customer through the good-better-best aspects of the products,” says Kirby. “But the days of the dusty old display getting the job done are long gone if you want to make the sale. And, in a kitchen and bath showroom, the experience is understandably enhanced by running water.

“Consider investing in great-looking, functional shower spaces that sell the total bath experience,” advises Kirby. “Walk-in showers have really come into their own,” she adds, citing their ease of use and accessibility, particularly for baby boomers, as a large part of their appeal. Showers, too, are designed exclusively for personal pampering and escape, says Kirby, making them ideal for unique and interactive merchandising opportunities.


That said, establishing a working shower display presents some practical issues:

  • For an individual shower display, a recycling unit offers the best and most cost-effective option for water. More ambitious displays, such as a bank of showerheads, will require a more intricate – and more expensive – plumbing and drainage system. Keep your budget in mind as you consider your options.
  • To prevent splashing and contain messes, install a barrier or small wall around a functional shower unit.
  • Shopping is a family affair. Position shower controls out of reach of small children.

Working water demands vigilant maintenance. Behind the scenes, the recycling pump or plumbing equipment must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure it remains in good working order. Customer-facing displays must be kept free of mold, mildew and mineral deposits, which will reflect negatively on your showroom and your product. Consider whether you will dedicate someone on your staff to handle maintenance issues or if you will require the services of an outside maintenance company. A routine maintenance schedule is advised to keep up with the needs of a working water display.


Times are changing and you will need to keep up, even while economic factors are slowing things down. Keep in mind that you can engage your customers in a meaningful way without breaking the bank. To spend wisely, be clear on who your current customers are, as well as those you want to attract.

Let their expectations guide you. A showroom specializing in entry-level or value-priced products may not warrant the expense of working water displays. However, you can still replicate the experience via a well-made manufacturer’s video shown on a flat screen television. A mid-priced retailer would be well-advised to raise the bar and invest in a recycling system and a small working display that invites customer interaction. Customers in high-end showrooms expect to be wowed by an extremely participatory experience in the same way they want to wow guests in their own homes.

What else can you do to encourage a high-performing showroom in tough times? Kirby suggests the following:

  • Partner with your manufacturers to see what you can do together to promote the brand and connection to the consumer. They might have a program that offers funding to create such an experience. Get manufacturers involved in your showroom and work together to create a compelling shopping experience that grows both of your sales.
  • Immerse shoppers in a multi-sensory experience. Create sensory touch points of engagement, such as in-store scent technology and complementary lighting, color and sound to encourage brand connections.
  • Hit the “refresh” button. Switch out showerheads to showcase the latest introductions. Replace static displays frequently. Change up towel colors and accessories. Stay on top of trends and be fashion forward. Strive for newness and relevancy. If the display area is small, highlight just one standout shower product that meets most consumer needs and provides the wow factor.
  • Broaden your appeal with greater product selection and availability. Today’s consumers want choices. Make sure you don’t niche yourself right out of business.

Understanding your customers and their preferences and attitudes toward shopping is more critical now than ever. Those businesses that can adapt to today’s empowered consumers and provide them with a rich, authentic retail experience will enjoy greater opportunity for success in the months ahead.