With all of the different showroom types and business philosophies in the kitchen and bath industry today, I recently enjoyed the opportunity to explore a new business format that pleasantly surprised me with its success. The owner has fashioned a unique approach to guiding a customer through the design process. Before I explain how, I should point out that the success of this unconventional business and showroom is a direct result of the owner’s exceptional focus and dynamic personality.
Combining years of selling experience with a desire for no-frills efficiency, this owner has chosen to run his business to suit his own style. His planning, focus and salesmanship have yielded an interesting showroom format that breaks the rules.
You see, this particular showroom has been devised as a support tool, which is opposite of the typical retail showroom that shows products for sale. In this showroom product selections reflect a streamlined selling style and low overhead expenses.
This is possible, in part, because it is a smaller business, with a smaller staff, in a small space. An unassuming, abbreviated name announces the business on the building above the entrance. Inside and outside, it is brief, to the point, fundamental and yet successful – proving that having a big, impressive showroom is not the only way to sell in our industry!
This unusual business plan is successful because the owner possesses clear goals for selling cabinetry. He freely admits he doesn’t intend to sell to everyone, and was cognizant of this fact while setting up his showroom. He devotes time to projects that pique his interest, creating focus to meet his goals.
During our visit he shared with me some atypical specifics that make perfect sense for his situation. Knowing that some of these details may interest owners of traditional showrooms, I asked to share them here. While he graciously agreed, he did so under the condition of anonymity, to protect his strategies within his market.
Like other showroom owners, this owner began by selecting a market focal point. Not uncommonly, when he started his business, he also chose to work with limited staff.
When considering location, this owner understood the benefit to selecting a space in a high-traffic area in a shopping mall. However, the approach used in drawing attention to the storefront was not conventional. The window displayed the words “kitchens” and “designs,” but was no more specific than that. With no name on the window, a placard listed hours by appointment and a phone number. The front window display was not the expected kitchen or bath, but a home office – again, not typical. In fact, the desk and back wall arrangements were the focal points for passersby. The back wall had two pull-up chairs at the desk with neither facing the window.
It was clear that the first impression created by this business was intended to facilitate the owner’s desire to support and control his own schedule. The front home office display is designed partly for function and partly for staged business operations… but for what or for whom? As a consumer looks in, it is not obvious. One may have some guesses, but the answer still is not exactly clear since the front window arrangement does not look like a display. While this is a retail space, its scope is limited because it offers hours by appointment only.
Another subtle and interesting marketing tactic is the clean-lined computer station, with a large flat-screen monitor titled and positioned for viewing by people on the outside. To catch their attention, a bright and colorful photo album runs on screen 24 hours a day. Surrounded by deep, rich cherry cabinetry, this marketing tool really “pops” visually while it silently advertises a variety of possibilities and intrigues consumers, subtly drawing them into this location.
On the Inside
Inside, just left of the main entrance path to the home office, is a very small cabinet display. Again, one is left wondering what might be the purpose of entering this business. With no window graphics, no logo displayed and no other clear or defined details, the visitor’s interest is aroused as he or she turns each corner.
Continuing past the home office, one encounters another “appointment only” space. This time, the space is a terrific personal office, located behind glass and beautifully appointed with mood and task lighting. This is the nerve center for managing the job details and facts once the client has agreed to work with the business.
In the center of the showroom, visitors will see three or four small displays and an open classroom area where the customer may qualify options and choose products. In keeping with the overall showroom design, the arrangement is very clean and concise. The space is large enough to have couples in for kitchen design classes, yet it is not overwhelming. Its close proximity to product emphasizes the task at hand.
Appearing nearby is the final unusual aspect of this showroom, and, frankly, a very simple tool. It is a very large dining room table, with eight chairs and a dining room light overhead. All elements look sturdy, but just like the other areas in this high-efficiency showroom, this area’s purpose is function.
The space that houses this table might suggest a dining room in a great room kitchen area. It is easy to imagine a consumer looking to plan a project settling in for an amenable discussion about needs and interests. Plus, because this area is shielded from daylight, it allows the down lighting to bring focus to the table and the meeting’s purpose.
Before long, the owner gains many of the details needed to address project parameters. Not only is the table area a great icebreaker, it’s something even better. It’s a presentation platform to facilitate the task of designing the client’s cabinetry plan, all while assuring focus and completion.
“Listening to what the client says is, of course, central to meeting their needs,” the owner elaborates. “I have my dining table to either get or finalize project details.”
However, he is careful not to downplay the importance of visiting his customers’ homes, which he does as soon as possible, to build rapport and foster understanding. “There are many design decisions a professional can finalize or recommend by seeing the client’s personal space,” he says.
Small, But Successful
While this showroom plan is not for everyone, it certainly lends itself to the small businessperson who likes to call his or her own shots, and who doesn’t necessarily strive to be the biggest on the block.
The owner I visited employs one other person who acts as a job coordinator. He understands that it would be difficult to grow larger unless he adds more staff, so today his business has about all the sales it can handle.
This owner acknowledges that, while his business is small compared to other kitchen and bath competitors, it is also very efficient and profitable because of its unique showroom design, lower overhead and elimination of extras.
“I don’t want to be weighted down by traditional trappings or trends,” he summarizes. “Actually, my showroom format is based on Sales 101 basics. I want to have a strong selling process that serves my clients and me successfully. My showroom tactics are an important part of my success.”