So much of what we do in this industry is based on appearances first, with function coming in a close second. Our clients expect a design to be as beautiful as it is functional – so it seems natural that consumers also expect our showrooms to look a certain way: orderly, clean and tidy.
Displays and selection areas should be kept neat and organized – everything in its place – no shipping boxes, employee lunch leftovers, cleaning or office supplies in sight.
The same goes for dust and grime: While some grit might be understood – even expected – in a behind-the-scenes work area, it’s not meant to be seen on the sales floor. After all, if consumers don’t like the way kitchen and bath dealers present their showroom – their direct link to the buying public – are those consumers going to trust the business with (and in) their home, one of their biggest investments?
Not likely, says Matt Hendrickson, president of Son Cabinetry and Design in Bermuda Dunes, CA. “Your showroom is a reflection of the type of work you do,” he says. “In other words, if you look good, you are good.”
Hendrickson should know. His 1,500-sq.-ft. showroom is a testimony to his belief that the showroom makes the business. It is open, yet welcoming, allowing consumers to walk into each vignette to experience the design, layout and cabinetry up close, instead of simply looking at it from a distance.
Most notably, as soon as you enter Son Cabinetry and Design, you see – and are drawn in by – the showroom displays. There are no structural barriers or visual clutter to obstruct the view.
What does your showroom say about you? Are there changes you could make to improve its appearance and presentation?
To help you find the answers, Hendrickson recently shared some of his strategies for keeping a well-maintained, uncluttered showroom.
Less is More
To begin, he operates according to the “less is more” philosophy, especially when it comes to using props in the showroom. A showroom should look like a home, if not better, he says. It should be clean, livable and spotless. Displaying items on the countertops and in cabinetry is necessary to give the display personality and tie it all together, but these things should be kept to a minimum. That way, the consumer can imagine his or her own possessions in each cabinet.
Balance is key. Every prop you place should be intentional and should have a reason for being shown. For example, a kitchen display should include a nice set of pots and pans. They don’t need to be high end, but they should be new and must look nice.
Items need not be expensive to look good. Check out places like Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond and T.J. Maxx for inexpensive, up-to-trend home goods and decor. Spend about $250-300 per display, as a rule of thumb. However, be aware that some competitive showrooms could be spending up to $1,000 per display.
In a cabinet with a glass door, show a set of dishes and glasses, grouped together so they look orderly and balanced. Buy and show dinner or salad plates in groupings of four or five, with minimal patterns so they remain timeless in style and may be interchanged between displays if needed.
All interior cabinet accessories should be propped to show their uses and possibilities. Cutlery dividers should show flatware, roll-outs should have pots and pans or mixing bowls.
It also helps to show how large- or small-scale props fit in relation to the space. An example would be to store Costco-type “bulk” items, such as large cans, bags or boxes and cases of many smaller bottles or cans.
Buy dry goods and cans in groupings of three or more. A nice looking box of pasta times three looks better on a shelf than three different packages. Look for clean package design, inviting colors and imagery.
Or, show how large platters, bowls or bakeware can be organized and stored efficiently for those who entertain or bake frequently. Storing such items is a dilemma for today’s families, so show them how you can help solve their problem.
However, your showroom is not a storage closet. So keep things like cleaning supplies, office machines, copy paper and other unsightly items in a back room.
Great countertop items include canisters, apothecary jars, fruit bowls (filled with imitation fruit or the real thing if you can keep it fresh), fake or fresh potted herbs, a cookbook stand with a cookbook open to a nice color picture and recipe or a utensil holder filled with new, nice looking utensils such as stainless steel, bamboo or silicone. Remember to set the experience in each display by selecting items that relate to that particular display.
Refresh food as needed, keeping a keen eye on fresh items such as fruit and flowers. Update as necessary to ensure everything stays fresh and does not become an attractant for pests.
Prop with Local Flavor
When deciding what props to choose and where to place them, Hendrickson says to keep your local market in mind. Consumers research local trends at home shows and in model homes. Show what’s popular now in these settings. For instance, prop the tops of wall cabinets if this is being shown in model homes.
You also may want to infuse local or regional flavor into your showroom kitchens, wet bars and entertainment units with theme props related to sports teams or popular interests, such as the “green” movement. Not only does this enforce the consumer’s relation to the space, it serves as a conversation starter.
Rearrange or update some decorative items every six months to a year, as well. This gives consumers something new to look at if they haven't visited your showroom in a while.
Another interesting point Hendrickson makes is that appliances eat up valuable display space. So, if you don’t sell them, there’s no point in showing them, he says. Instead, he improvises by showing a dishwasher covered by a cabinet panel, along with a kitchen sink and pot and pan drawer.
However, he does not include a cooktop or refrigerator in his display. “It’s designed to let your imagination fill in the blanks,” he says. “You can stand at the sink and imagine that your refrigerator is behind you.”
However, if you do sell appliances or partner with an appliance company, consider a display strategy that includes a few full kitchens as well as smaller kitchen “zones,” such as cooking, clean-up or prep areas.
Finally, remember that while uncluttered is important, clean is also essential. Hire a cleaning service to come in every two weeks (at a minimum) to dust, wipe and thoroughly clean displays from top to bottom. The frequency will depend on the space and traffic flow. How quickly does it get dirty? Once you determine this, plan a routine and schedule accordingly.
No matter how tempting it might be, do not assign this task to your highly skilled design staff. Their time is better spent doing what they do best: selling, designing and working with customers!
Remember, consumers want to imagine themselves cooking their own meals in your display kitchen. So keep the employee lunches and food preparation area in a separate break room, out of sight of showroom displays.
Your showroom is a reflection of the type and quality of work you do. Be honest: If customers entered your business and nobody was there to greet them, would they come back based solely on what they saw? Would you get their vote on a referral to their friends or acquaintances? If not, consider what changes you could make toward the goal of creating a clean, uncluttered showroom that sells itself.