Showcasing Everything You Are

Suzie Williford and Doug Hermance had the right idea in mind when they began planning a showroom for the expansive lines of decorative hardware and plumbing products sold by Westheimer Plumbing & Hardware, outside of Houston.

The duo didn't simply lock themselves in a room and limit the planning process solely to brainstorming sessions, or to ideas they'd previously tried, or even to consultations with a showroom design professional.

Instead, they hit the road visiting other showrooms, experiencing what they truly liked and didn't like in a selling environment, developing their own unique vision, thinking through the details.

It's an approach that every kitchen and bath design firm should keep in mind when planning a new, expanded or revamped showroom space.

It's certainly an approach that paid off for the people at Westheimer.

The result of the company's effort is there for Kitchen & Bath Design News readers to see, in our annual "Guide to Innovative Showrooms". It's a spectacular visual showcase that's as much a beautifully lit, finely accessorized gallery of fine art as it is a space to display products and design ideas.

What it also is, at the same time, is a showroom that marks Westheimer Plumbing as a special, and memorable, destination in the minds of prospects and customers. It creates an impression about the business that's powerful and positive. It teaches, stimulates customers' emotions, inspires their imaginations and sparks their own sense of creativity.

And, oh yes, of course it also helps sell product. Let's not forget that.

Westheimer's showroom, and the others that are featured this month in K&BDN, remind us that there's both an art and a science to visual merchandising.

That's a concept which the finest high-end retailers have understood, and capitalized on, for years. And it's a concept that's tied closely to great showroom design and management.

The kitchen and bath industry's best showrooms, it's clear, all have at least two important things in common: They set themselves apart by using visual merchandising to create a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. And, they use those same concepts to create an environment that not only conveys an indelible message to visitors, but becomes a place that that visitors genuinely enjoy being in.

Does your showroom do the same?

And exactly what message does it convey?

Does it show your products, design skills, professionalism and customer service capabilities in their best possible light? Does it reflect consumer hot buttons, present cutting-edge design ideas and product applications, exhibit your attention to detail, create visual interest, provide a sense of drama?

In other words, does it communicate to visitors that your business is, indeed, special and capable of great things? And does it make people want to do business with you?

Those are questions that kitchen and bath professionals should be asking themselves continually, as part of a healthy process of constantly evaluating and improving their business.
K&BDN will certainly be paying an increasing amount of attention to these questions and to the subject of showrooms in general in the months to come.

Aside from our ongoing Inside Today's Showroom column, by leading showroom designer Sarah Reep, CKD, ASID, K&BDN will be rolling out a new in-depth educational program focusing on the showroom. The program, to be presented in key metro markets in 2005, will address key showroom trends, and will spotlight ways to design, accessorize and manage a showroom for maximum profit. Details will be unveiled shortly.

In the meantime, kitchen/bath professionals should follow the examples set by Williford and Hermance, and draw both ideas and inspiration from the fabulous showrooms found throughout the industry like those we're privileged to spotlight this month.