Showroom Theater Creates Collaborative Approach

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In my February column, I introduced a Sacramento-based retailer that has developed an innovative strategy for presenting the design and closing the sale. Kitchen Mart, Inc. is a full-service kitchen and bathroom remodeling company. Its three-pronged process to serve customers, coupled with an inventive showroom, has brought the company remarkable success.

In an unusual twist, Kitchen Mart has tailored its showroom merchandising to purposefully reinforce the process it uses to get to know its customers and serve each one’s individual interests. Toward this end, the physical showroom includes two separate sales presentation areas, each designed to meet a specific need.

The first area features a traditional, fully appointed kitchen display, complete with warm-toned wood cabinetry and a tiered island. Customers sit at counter-height stools to meet face-to-face with a designer and discuss initial plans and ponder selections. Technology is downplayed in this space, where designers focus on the big picture, using mainly paper and pencil.

Presentation Area

What really sets Kitchen Mart apart from other retailers is its second presentation area, which is designed to close the sale. The polar opposite of the first space, this area employs technology to accomplish the selling objective. Kitchen Mart president Dave Hollars stumbled onto the concept at a home theater show.

“The product demonstration literally captivated the audience,” Hollars says. “I knew it could do the same for our selling and designing process.”

The result is a showroom sales area that has not only streamlined Kitchen Mart’s selling process, it has also improved its closing rate.

Catering particularly to the customer who desires an active role in the design process, the 300-square-foot space also includes an L-shaped layout with an island. The design of the space is modern, clean and contemporary with all the usual appointments one would expect in a sales display – and more. Consumers sit at the desk-height island in comfortable leather chairs, facing the cabinetry display and a 42" high-definition plasma screen. The designer sits opposite the consumers, back to the cabinetry, with laptop access to the high-definition display. As the designer provides answers to a series of questions on the laptop, the kitchen comes to life right before the customers’ eyes.

“I have been designing for over 13 years now, and seeing my clients’ faces light up as they look at their kitchen on the screen on the wall behind me is worth every penny,” says Kathy Starrett, Kitchen Mart designer. “I can read their pleasure, talk eye-to-eye with them and go over all the details, even moving things around as they are sitting in our showroom. Then we walk around and I show them all the accessories and features that we have just talked about, finalizing door styles and colors right on the spot. This shortens the decision-making process and helps to make the sale that much quicker.”

Hollars believes the theater experience is a powerful tool, allowing customers to participate, collaborate with the designer and feel as though they have control in the process to create their dream. In the end, it’s what ultimately sells the kitchen. In fact, Hollars estimates that 60 percent of sales presented in this area are closed at approximately the same step in the process, in large part thanks to the way the showroom is set up to facilitate this. Designers must book the area in advance to ensure each one gets time to dazzle their customers.

Hollars adds that, too many times consumers leave a showroom frustrated when trying to buy a kitchen. They might know what they want, but they do not understand the process of how to get it done.

“What we need to remember as designers is that it’s not every day a customer buys a new kitchen. The theater experience helps to put consumers at ease by drawing them in and making them a part of the process, from beginning to end,” he comments.

“Ever since we installed the plasma screen behind our conference counter, I have had nothing but excited clients as they can finally ‘see’ their kitchen,” Starrett says. “The average client cannot visualize using floor plans and elevations.”

She continues, “In conjunction with the big screen, we use 20/20 cabinetry software that gives the clients a 360-degree tour of their kitchen. Doing this in high-definition color with their cabinets, countertop, flooring and wall color just wows and amazes them.”

Hollars says designers keep building momentum by soliciting the customer’s continued participation. “At the end of the meeting, just before we show them their design, we have fun with the process and ask for a drum roll. To fully see their decisions and investment come together on the big screen captivates them. They just about fall out of their seats and say, ‘Where do we sign?’”

Planning Tips

Kitchen Mart designers have identified the following features as key for inclusion when planning a theater-style presentation area:

  • A 42" high-definition plasma screen, installed on the wall at
    eye level behind the designer. Kitchen Mart partners with a home theater company to utilize the best technology.
  • Electrical and Internet connections situated where the designer is seated at the island. The laptop also is connected to the company server. Internet access allows the designer to browse products not readily available within the space, to keep the process contained.
  • Appropriate lighting. Use ambient and task lighting suitable for a display, but be sure glare does not obscure view of the plasma screen.
  • A television that can be used for other events and needs. Kitchen Mart plays kitchen installation videos on the screen when not in use for presentations, and it doubles as a training tool for DVD-type training.

The theater presentation space removes the fear from the buying process by creating a low-pressure, collaborative environment. It also allows the consumers to be the queen and king of their design, Hollars says.

“Typically, we see that the man is very relaxed, sitting back watching TV as he would at home…more patiently waiting for the price, while the woman is eager, engaged and allowed to control, direct or participate,” he explains.

The theater presentation has been so successful for Kitchen Mart that Hollars has included two theater meeting areas, each with its own 42" high-definition plasma display, in its second location, a new, 2,000-sq.-ft. showroom.

“It seems to work for today’s educated, tech-savvy consumers,” Hollars says. “Some have so much confidence and research – they have it in their mind, but they need a way to get it out. Giving the customer the ability to see the space in 3-D with color and texture really makes an easy sell.”

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