During slow economic times, many remodelers downsize or phase out their showrooms. But there are ways to make a showroom pay, says Ken Peterson, president of SEN Design Group, a buying group based in Chapel Hill, N.C. Peterson argues that it makes sense to have a showroom, even a small one, because “if you position yourself as a place of information and advice, you’re in a better position than other people out there pushing product.”
To get people into your showroom, one of the best things you can do is to offer seminars “on topics that are meaningful to people or relevant to the current economic climate,” Peterson says.
Steve St. Onge, owner of Rhode Island Kitchen & Bath, in Warwick, increased showroom traffic with a Visiting Chefs series. One winter Saturday, 80 attendees learned about more than just cooking, wine, and kitchen appliances — they were able to wander the showroom engaging in conversations with staff and seeing, touching, and trying products. St. Onge booked a dozen appointments, which he says should lead to two or three jobs. It cost relatively little for the seminar — the chef comes free as part of a promotion for a local restaurant.
As part of the showroom learning experience, Peterson suggests highlighting your design/build process, as well as creating a cabinet wall so visitors can compare and contrast products. Create large storyboards that show what homeowners might experience during a showroom visit, or use the boards to “unbundle” a job, illustrating your process. Give away information-based booklets on topics like good lighting or closet organization.
Spread the Word
Using ConstantContact e-mail marketing software, St. Onge delivers invitations to e-mail addresses captured via his website, as well as to clients who have a design agreement in progress, previous clients, and friends. He also posts a street sign at the time of the event, for walk-ins. Peterson suggests creating a click-here-to-find-our-latest-seminar button on your website.
The number of visitors isn’t critical. Having a smaller group makes it easier for staff to offer personal attention and for visitors to bond with the speaker.
“In our business, it’s all about the details and how you control them,” Peterson says. “If you demonstrate in a meaningful way that you’re controlling the details better than your competition, you’ll seem more professional and credible.”
—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.