Moving. Just the possibility sends shivers up the spines of those who cling to the status quo. For more adventurous souls, it creates waves of excitement about what could be. But whatever group you would put yourself into, simply knowing more about the subject of moving your showroom can make the prospect much less daunting.
I gained some “insider” information about the topic from two kitchen and bath principals who recently relocated their showrooms. I found their advice to be not only practical, but also enlightening. If you are facing an upcoming move, or merely considering a new location, let their experience make your move a smooth transition.
REASON FOR RELOCATING
First, how do you know you’re ready to move? Joe DiChicco, owner of The Cabinet Shop in Cape May, NJ, suspected his 15-year-old business was readyfor a new home. Sales were even and growth was at a standstill. His hunch proved correct when, soon after moving, sales were on the way up.
“Old customers found us right away, and more important, new customers who fit our niche were delighted to discover us,” he said.
As a result, DiChicco says sales have doubled within three to four years, without an increase in advertising.
DiChicco offers several questions to determine whether your business might benefit from a move:
1. Could you gain more exposure for your showroom or brand in a busier area? Often “Main Street” or other high traffic locations within a community create more awareness with increased opportunities for walk-ins and referrals.
2. Does your current location match the profile of your “niche” market? If not, you may be losing sales due to “invisibility.” Go where your customers are. If you can’t, make sure they can find you.
DiChicco sought out the best building he could afford that fit his needs, then waited for it to become available. It took time, but the results have been worth it.
3. Could you benefit from more space, to add features or increase offerings? Sometimes it’s possible to gain square footage just because the building is better (i.e., no poles or awkward areas to plan around, less wasted space). For example, DiChicco’s business reaped several rewards from its new location:
- A central location for sample resources. The new selection area includes all countertop materials, lighting, hardware, etc., along with two to four layout areas for coordinating materials and a private meeting area.
- A grand reception. Within this dedicated area, a full-time staffer greets and interacts with customers, while pre-qualifying for designers.
Compartmentalized displays: Custom, higher-end semi-custom, then competitively priced semi-custom. Definite separations permit a staging area for product presentations and improved customer qualifying while creating a natural pathway for self-guided tours.
- Space to add more salespeople. When properly selected and trained, more sales personnel equals increased sales capacity. DiChicco realized that the increased sales overall (and profit increase) would offset increased expenses.
4. Are you looking at your location as an investment in your business? Looking ahead, does it make sense to “jump start” your growth with a move? DiChicco’s decision to purchase his own building was a conscious investment toward future growth. He increased his square footage from 4,000 to 8,000, which allowed every area of the new showroom to be larger: warehouse, selection area, reception, display floor. While he admits it was a risk, DiChicco says he was confident in the move, since he and his team had examined all angles and determined that moving was the route toward growth.
Brian Simpson, owner of Kitchen & Bath Solutions in Phoenix, AZ, has moved his business twice in five years. Located in a vacation community, Simpson’s situation is somewhat different. Coming and going is commonplace. Therefore, visibility is tantamount to success.
While it took two moves to get to his desired location – on a corner, across the parking lot from a popular restaurant – it was worth the wait and effort. Simpson’s business increased 66 percent in one year! He credits his improved visibility for the jump in sales.
HAVE A PLAN
Both DiChicco and Simpson say planning can make or break any move. “Planning a move is not too different than managing a project in our business,” Simpson said. “There are many details, and executing them well matters.”
DiChicco offers the following guidelines for planning a showroom move:
1. Plan the new layout/design. Think in inches, not feet, so everything fits. Remember bathrooms, ADA specifications, wiring needs. Is there anything that might not make it through inspections? This will help determine what gets thrown out or donated and what makes the move.
Simpson adds: Build out the new showroom before closing the old one. However, allow yourself some flexibility to add new products as you become more familiar with what your new location customers want. But don’t be sloppy; even if the new showroom isn’t full, everything should be complete to the detail.
2. Announce the move. Don’t wait until you leave to announce the move to a new location. Place a professionally done sign at the new location as soon as possible (months in advance) to make existing customers aware of the move. As the move-in date approaches, consider posting an opening date. Also, when you vacate the old location, leave a sign that directs customers to the new showroom.
This is news! Plan ahead for ribbon cutting, grand opening events. Also, communicate any time your business will be closed via voicemail and in the windows of the old and new stores. Also, get the word out by talking to your customers well in advance of the move.
Simpson announced his move through advertising that included a map. But, he says, be mindful of advertising print schedules. Some publications require a long turnaround time from ad scheduling to circulation. You want your customers to have accurate, timely information.
Other means of communication might include your Web site, a flyer to announce your move or even a phone call to existing customers. Don’t shroud your big news in secrecy, since this tends to feed the rumor mill. Rather, print business cards with the new location address and phone number (if possible) to hand out so people know your intentions. Can you imagine the shock of paying someone a great deal of money to handle a project, then returning a few weeks later to find them packing up or completely gone?
3. Schedule hook-ups and disconnections. These are the services for doing business: utilities, phone, garbage, Internet, etc. If possible, keep your same phone number to prevent customer confusion and inconvenience. Also, ask about special services your phone company may offer, such as call forwarding or new number reporting. Make sure to consider the time it might take to relocate services. Communicate with your providers to ensure that your down time is minimal. Timing your move during a weekend could be beneficial, but make sure service providers can accommodate this schedule.
DiChicco cautions against activating or changing services before signing a lease or closing on a property. Something could break the deal at the last minute, and you don’t want to be left with an inaccurate Yellow Pages listing.
Simpson even suggests timing your move to coincide with the new phone book. This way, customers have your new information at their fingertips. This small detail could affect your business for a year if you move after the phone book prints.
4. Arrange for hiring and training. Work with a reputable human resources firm to hire new personnel, if needed. Also, be sure to allow sufficient time to train new hires so they are ready on opening day.
5. Make your move! Consider all aspects of the physical move: who, what, when, how, costs. Be sure to get all of the necessary permits, inspections, etc. to avoid surprise costs or delays in the process. What goes, what’s donated, what gets discarded? How do you best disassemble a showroom? List your priorities from beginning to completion. Then, put it all on a calendar with a check-off list.
Simpson said climate – outside or business-wise – could play a role in determining your best time to move. For example, if December is a slow month and January is usually busy, move in December. Slow periods can also be a convenient time to train new employees or train existing staff about new products.
Finally, remember, something has to be first and something has to be last. New displays should be first in the new location. This way, you have an operational showroom in both locations. Computers should be the last things moved from the old location. Therefore, you can stay operational until the last minute.
Of course, the move to a new location is only the beginning of what could be a great success story. In the October installment of “Inside Today’s Showroom,” I will share more insight from a third person in our industry, who will detail how to influence customers by making a good first impression.