Not every remodeler has, or necessarily needs, a showroom. Some have carried on for years without one, while others couldn’t imagine doing business not having a showroom. Kitchen and bath designers, particularly, favor showrooms, perhaps because they deal in such a wide variety of product styles and finishes — from counterops to cabinets and from facuets to decorative hardware. Exterior remodelers, however, seem to benefit equally from showrooms. In either case, even in this age of online shopping, display areas can provide visibility and credibility to a remodeling firm regardless of its specialty.
“I think showrooms are 100 percent necessary to show prospects and clients what they are getting. They can touch things and get an idea of the quality of products they are receiving,” says Jennifer Runner, AKBD, a designer with Normandy Remodeling, a design-build firm in Hinsdale, Ill.
“I wouldn’t want to buy a car based on looking on it on the Internet, or a house based on looking at it online or in a magazine,” she says. “Those are great for inspiration, but when you’re going through the process of a kitchen remodel, having examples in the showroom and having different kitchen styles on display is very important so customers can see what those pieces look like in person.”
Selection Is Important
While kitchen, bath and other room vignettes are important to inspire clients and give them a feel for what they can expect, selection is another important function of the showroom. “Our showroom is about 8,000 sq. ft., and half of that is where we have meetings with our clients and show them tile boards, cabinetry colors, plumbing selections, granite samples and all of the choices that go into a remodel. Having a place where we can get together, spread out and show what we’re envisioning for their homes is really important. I think it would be difficult to show clients a plan and not have the materials to back it up,” Runner says.
The first meeting with prospective clients is always in their homes to get an idea of their style, needs, wishes and requirements, Runner relates, “but then we encourage every meeting after that to be at our showroom, where we can really dive deep into the selection process.”
Normandy does get some walk-in traffic, too. “Our showrooms are open Monday through Saturday, and people can come in and walk around at their leisure and just gather ideas. After they come in, they can always set an appointment with a designer to come out to their homes, so it’s certainly open to the public,” Runner says.
Physical Presence Is Important
Having a physical presence is important, too. “That’s huge,” says Runner. “We’re a pretty large operation, and I’m one person working with a family, but it’s nice [that clients know] I have this whole company that can stand behind what I’m proposing.”
Often, at the end of an initial meeting with clients, Runner and other designers take the new customers on a behind-the-scenes tour of the two-story building, showing them the blueprinting process and support staff. “It’s a two-minute tour, but I think people really respond to it. They understand it takes a lot to have these projects built [and that we have the resources to make it happen].”
Bringing potential customers into the showroom for seminars is another way remodelers leverage their investment in a display area. Runner says Normandy always has seminars on a Saturday morning. Prospects listen to a presentation, such as Secrets of Ideal Kitchen, and get a feel for how the design process works. Then, they’re invited to have lunch and walk around the showroom, where designers are on hand to answer questions and book appointments if desired.
Building a showroom is time-consuming and costly and so is keeping it up to date. Normandy recently updated a vignette in response to changing homeowner tastes. Pristine white cabinets with gray and taupe tones have come into vogue on Chicago’s North Shore, Runner says, “and we didn’t have anything like that in the showroom. We went ahead and made the investment, and people love this kitchen.