The Five-Year Showroom Update Plan

As professionals whose purpose is to sell products for profit, kitchen and bath retailers know how essential it is to plan and maintain an effective, efficient showroom.

We've all seen and envied model showrooms. These showrooms are easy to recognize, with their up-to-date displays, complete with the latest features, finishes and d'cor.

Conversely, we've also visited showrooms that transported us back in time with ho-hum designs, shop-worn samples and dated offerings.

The dilemma for most business owners is how to keep their showroom current without breaking the bank. If money was never an issue, wouldn't we all have a ball designing and decorating, then redesigning and redecorating on a whim? What a dream! Of course, reality dictates that healthy, profitable businesses must adhere to a budget.

For this reason most kitchen and bath retailers remain ever conscious of the bottom line, making careful investments where their showrooms are concerned.

Some have found a plan that works for them, a timeframe that keeps them competitive, providing for intermittent updating and redesigns when time and budget allows. Others might be struggling with an ineffective plan, or simply wondering whether their plan compares with competitors selling similar products. For those seeking an effective plan for successful showroom updates, I've devised the following five-year approach to use as a guide.

In my experience successful showrooms should be completely changed out every five years at the very least to keep display designs current, d'cor fresh and samples shiny. I say "at the very least" because of the speed and frequency with which product changes are occurring.

Still not sure? Here's a challenge to test this theory: Pick your current favorite product. It can be anything a door style, a faucet, a countertop color and predict whether it will still be your favorite five years from now. Chances are, no matter how much you love it now, some new door style, faucet or countertop introduction will become your new favorite during the next half-decade.

A master plan
With so many things to consider, devising a showroom plan is a big job. The best place to start is with a master showroom plan. Think of this as the "big picture" for planning a showroom that works.

Within the master plan, several important and detailed plans must be created. These include an efficient, practical traffic footprint and flow, destination centers for orderly selection and selling, and a cohesive graphic identity from the front curb to the back door. In addition, the comprehensive style plan and d'cor should be planned as a total solution and lighting must be planned carefully, to identify task areas and maximize impact.

Of course, in any plan that involves so many decisions, budget is key. One should also be mindful of timing, looking to the future and planning for upcoming business events. Amazingly, all of this has to occur even before any products are chosen! Once the fundamentals have been planned, you can decide what resources to make available and how to include them.

Then manufacturer partnerships can be solidified and resource materials ordered.
As you may have guessed, the five-year approach to successful showroom design doesn't end with the master plan. Rather, the master plan marks the crucial beginning of the five-year cycle. While the master-planning stage can be daunting even overwhelming at times investing time in research and careful decision-making can pay off in the long run. This is because nearly all decisions that must be made during the following four years are based on the master plan.

Making refinements
So what happens next? The year after the master plan is devised and implemented should be dedicated to evaluation. This is the time to take a close look at your showroom displays and determine what's working and what isn't. Don't be afraid to make any necessary changes. Remember, the five-year approach is a constant evolution geared toward showroom success. This means your master plan can, and should, be tweaked at any time if something within it no longer works.

Two years after implementing the master plan, it's time to refresh displays to maintain visual interest. Generally, changes at this time are small: new decorative hardware or fresh glass inserts. Or maybe it makes sense to switch out a countertop or two, to show the latest introductions in materials or color. You may even see the need to update some areas with new paint, wall coverings or accessories. Again, changes should be made if something no longer works.

After three years, it is time for another trend-based update. Examine displays and implement minimal updates to reflect emerging trends and consumer interests. Changes to consider at this time include new paint and/or wall coverings, new hardware, new moldings and new or improved accessories. Now is also a good time to begin planning to change out a display.

When doing so, keep the master plan in mind and don't hesitate to consult a trend forecasting expert who can identify new and different products to feature in your displays.

Year four is dedicated to showroom renewal. Perhaps you've changed out a display or you're preparing to do so. If the latter is the case, ensure as minimal a disruption to your business as possible by planning quick and efficient steps toward completion.

It's practical to commence the project only after all workers are scheduled and all materials are in-house. Then, stick to a strict schedule for completion. During a larger remodeling project, generate customer excitement and anticipation by exhibiting a color rendering of the new display. Once the project is complete, celebrate your investment with a sales and marketing event that fits your company's strategy and business profile.

Once the fifth year comes around, the cycle begins again.

It's time to evaluate and re-examine the master plan. Are there small changes that could be made to keep the showroom running smoothly? Or is now the time to begin planning a larger remodel? It's important to be realistic remember, the success of your business is at stake.

Additionally, keep in mind any recent display switch-outs. Did you reap the results you'd hoped for? What worked and what didn't? After you have answered these questions, plan and implement more changes, whether small or large, that will keep your showroom up-to-date, interesting, inviting and open for business.

The five-year approach to showroom updates provides a feasible, evolving plan to keep your showroom looking fresh within the reality of day-to-day operations. It is, however, a minimal, basic plan. The timeframe could easily be accelerated to accommodate more rapid updates, in which case I still recommend following through with each evaluation phase.

Formulating and following such a plan prompts one to revisit the master showroom plan on an annual basis, at least, to determine which displays are helping business and which ones no longer belong. Best of all, planning and implementing small scheduled changes spreads the cost over time, making it easier to maintain an up-to-date showroom.

It's never too late to start forming a master plan. Don't wait you might be surprised at your success.'