Success on the Retail Battlefield

Linda Whitcomb has a pretty good idea about how to deal with challenging economic times and a highly competitive kitchen and bath market.

So does Jack Kellerman. And Matt Plaskoff. And David Bartlett, too.

All are veteran kitchen and bath dealers who’ve seen the kitchen/bath remodeling sector – along with housing in general – experience its share of ups and downs. All have responded to today’s challenging business climate by exploring creative ways to leverage new business opportunities. And all are managing to remain profitable during a period when the housing industry is experiencing a meltdown that threatens the well-being of many home-related businesses (see Bonus Features).

In Whitcomb’s case, her company, the Hyannis, MA-based Village Kitchen & Bath, recently began offering free educational seminars as a steady source of viable new prospects…and as an alternative to the ads the company had been running in newspapers and magazines.

Kellerman’s dealership, Kellerman Kitchen & Bath, in Baton Rouge, followed a similar approach with seminars, turning successfully to direct-mail marketing as a promotional vehicle for its products, programs and services.

Plaskoff and Bartlett went very different routes – but with equally solid results.

The owner of a successful, high-end design/build firm for more than two decades, Plaskoff created “One Week Bath,” a company that has built more than 600 custom baths in just a few years – each fully installed in only one week.

And Bartlett, president of The Kitchen Center of Framingham in Framingham, MA, has expanded his company’s services to include a professional packing expert – along with the boxes – to pack and store the contents of a kitchen during the remodeling process.

For all of their differences, each of these dealers demonstrates striking similarities.

Each has implemented innovative business strategies to drive revenue, instead of simply relying exclusively on the age-old formula of referrals and repeat customers. Each has employed new marketing tactics or heightened service as a way of coping with a softer market, new types of customers and tough new forms of competition. Each, in effect, has boldly reinvented their company on the fly as business conditions change, old formulas grow stale and exciting new business opportunities emerge.

Dealing with tough times is no easy task. And, odds are, it’s not going to get easier any time soon.

It’s encouraging to see that dealers such as Whitcomb, Kellerman, Plaskoff and Bartlett are among the army of those who are not merely surviving on today’s demanding retail battlefield, but thriving, even as the market continues temporarily to languish.

Editor’s Note: Speaking of thriving in a challenging business climate, kitchen and bath dealers would be wise to take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn how to do just that.

The second and third in a 2008 series of all-day seminars co-produced by the SEN Design Group and Kitchen & Bath Design News will offer time-tested strategies for successfully operating a kitchen/bath dealership in tough economic times.
The seminars, entitled “Managing for Success in Today’s Challenging Economy,” are scheduled for Oct. 16 in Cincinnati and Nov. 7 in Orlando. Topics include budgeting, forecasting, profitable pricing formulas, effective marketing strategies and critical management tools to navigate the current business climate. Details are available from SEN at (800) 991-1711, or by visiting

Savvy business management is more critical than ever these days. No owner or manager in the kitchen and bath industry should pass up the opportunity to gain the specialized business management education needed to remain vibrant and profitable in today’s challenging, volatile market.