More specialized than kitchen and bath showroom professionals, decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms face a narrow but crucial set of concerns. Preparation, product selection and presentation are the name of the game, and DPH showroom professionals recently asked by Kitchen & Bath Design News to describe their business strategies consistently noted that failing to address one of the three Ps is a step toward failure.
In his address to members of the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association at the DPHA breakfast held at the recent Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, Michael Rockstroh, a strategic business specialist, shared his insights about the decorative plumbing and hardware industry (see related story, Page 40). Key among them were his assertions that decorative plumbing and hardware professionals need to take a “lighter, tighter, brighter,” approach to their businesses and their showrooms.
That means streamlining offerings and creating a light and bright space that is clean, both visually and functionally.
In an industry fraught with concerns about the stagnant economy and the falling dollar, denizens of the DPH world believe their specialized area is what sustains them.
“No matter the size of their project, clients walk into our showroom knowing what they’re looking for. They’re not going into a box store to buy lightbulbs and passing through the kitchen and bath design area casually. They’ve thought it through beforehand. They’ve heard of us, or seen an ad and made the concerted effort to drive across town to visit us,” says Michelle Henderson of Banner Plumbing Supply Co. in Buffalo Grove, IL. “That’s half the sale right there.”
The other half, she says, comes when the client steps through the door to tour Banner’s approximately 15,000-sq.-ft. showroom. The company, a member of DPHA, brought Henderson in to design the extensive showroom – a process that took two years.
Michelle Lariviere, general manager of Aquae Sulis, a division of William F. Meyer Co., says the company’s newest location in Chicago was springboarded by the firm’s Glen Ellyn showroom, which opened in 2004. The challenge for her was to design a showroom with a branding strategy consistent with the other showrooms (a third showroom is located in Aurora, IL) while serving the more urbane market in which the new showroom is situated.
“I wanted to work with the existing elements of the space to give the new showroom its own identity, but the colors, products and styling are consistent with the other Aquae Sulis showrooms,” she says.
Davis & Warshow, a well-established plumbing supply company based in the New York metro area, has had a head start. The company’s 12th location, in the heart of New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, is an exclusive enclave with no street signage and an original design plan that mirrors the area’s haute couture attitude.
While addressing DPHA members, Rockstroh asserted that too much complexity in a decorative plumbing business slows the business down, and that agility in the marketplace is a key to success. Translation: Focus on a particular market and don’t try to do too much. This concept is nothing new to Brad Reddington of Palatine, IL-based R&R Tile and Bath, who has recognized the need to focus more tightly on his target clientele.
“We’ve dropped certain manufacturers not because their lines weren’t appealing, but because their price points eventually just weren’t realistic for our market,” he says.
Knowing a particular market and positioning the showroom’s design to address that audience is pivotal, agrees Lariviere.
Aquae Sulis’ city location is one of three in the Chicagoland area, and she says each showroom has a “Chicago Contemporary” style, with consistent colors, products and positioning. However, the Chicago location retains a number of characteristics unique to the building – including exposed brick walls, concrete floors, wood ceiling and original beams – which give the space a more loft-like urban flavor.