To display or not to display? That has become the question, regardless of what segment of the luxury kitchen and bath world you are in.
Manufacturers love to, and need to, showcase their products. Whether your product hangs on a wall, drops into or onto another display, stands alone or hangs from above, display space is at a premium. There’s nothing like the right lighting on a beautiful finish, being able to feel a really cool design feature or texture, or seeing for yourself what new technology can command a product to do. It really is the best way to experience a product, especially if it’s a luxury product. Sitting in a tub, turning a handle, seeing the flow of water or closing a slow close drawer are memorable experiences.
And so…to display or not to display?
The past few years have thrown that question to the wind, even more so than (or simply in addition to) the inexorable growth of internet buying. If a customer can’t get to the product, how can they know and experience the quality? How can they differentiate showroom products from those featured in big box stores? How will premium and luxury customers get to know us? Are samples the answer, and should or could they take the place of displays? Would samples truly do justice to the complete product? How would someone experience larger products, such as a bathtub? Can the consumer really get a feel for the look of a product from online photos, 3D images or renderings?
I believe that consumers missed having the traditional showroom experience because of the COVID pandemic, and that they look forward to once again visiting a showroom and receiving expert guidance. I also believe – as is being experienced now by how busy everyone is – that today’s customers are using all that showrooms have to offer but are armed to the teeth with information from the web.
Showrooms need displays just as much as manufacturers do. The cost of the square footage and the display materials are burdens for all parties, as is maintenance. We all know that display space has always been a premium, finite commodity that offers highly sought-after opportunities. I think we’d agree that good displays, particularly working displays, are the optimal way for a consumer to experience the differences offered by premium products. We likely also agree that during these past few years we’ve really had to pay attention to how the consumer now shops for products using many different platforms, in addition to traditional brick-and-mortar retail.
CREATING IMPACTFUL DISPLAYS
So, what makes for a good display?
According to showroom expert Jonas Weiner of Best Plumbing Tile & Stone in New York, “A good display is a tool that helps the salesperson build a stronger relationship with their client through demonstrating their understanding and expertise of the product.”
For example, Weiner says, “a showering display that showcases a pressure balance trim, thermostatic trim and digital showering trim is going to allow your associates to show their expertise on showering technologies. You may not sell the specific products you are displaying, but you are creating a wonderful tool.”
This theory extends to many other products in the DPH realm: live tub displays where a customer can see the difference between an air-jetted bath and a water-jetted bath; bathroom furniture displays that showcase slow-close doors and drawers, and the like. These are all experiences that cannot be found online or through samples.
Back to the question ‘to display or not display?’ Samples were the hot commodity in 2020 and continued in demand through 2021. Most manufacturers can furnish small format pieces of their product for color, finish and tactile comparisons. Samples are great, if they can be produced and/or if your product can be experienced through a small sample.
Manufacturers are willing to provide samples if they can fit them into regular production schedules without delaying product that’s destined for someone’s home. Samples not only take production time but are also costly to produce, since they must usually be manufactured in the same manner as the actual product and/or are small pieces trimmed from a standard-sized product.
Are samples really effective? Are there alternatives? Are they used correctly and consistently for the cost? Do they simply end up in a “samples drawer” in a showroom and never or rarely get used?
It’s safe to say that the average consumer doesn’t have “the vision,” as one salesperson put it to me. They need to see and feel. They need to realize that what’s available is no longer their grandparents’ plumbing. They need to talk to a pro who can offer the guidance they and their contractors can use for seamless installation. Even more importantly, they need the affirmation from an experienced professional that they’ve selected the ideal products for their needs, desires and budget.
Photos on the web and the advice of your installer only go so far. Displays and samples, when used properly, serve to positively differentiate showrooms from websites and big box stores and provide the return-on-investment customers expect when they take the time to visit a showroom and experience products firsthand. ▪
Kimberly Frechette is the national sales manager at Americh Corporation. She has worked in manufacturing, distribution and sales in the bathroom segment for 30 years. Frechette has been involved with DPHA for 18 years and is a returning Board member.