Over the past few years, I had the privilege and opportunity to work with kitchen and bath firm owner Bill Staycheff, in the Cleveland area. He has shown vision and strength in changing Freedom Design’s business model in a local market.
I observed him when the market was at its worst, as he considered possibilities and took action, and I wanted to share some key learnings from Bill and his team. Ideally, if you are considering reinventing your showroom, this will serve as inspiration and food for thought.
The Freedom Design team concluded that a new location was needed to position themselves on “the beaten path,” rather than continuing to stay out of sight – the norm during the growth of the ’90s.
With his current showroom locations and customer base, Bill had to make changes to survive the market downturn and to be poised to grow after the market recovery. “It wasn’t easy to take this step, as what to do wasn’t clear; however, I knew how we went to market before was not going to allow us to sustain our business long-term. We knew we had to make changes,” he stressed.
For several reasons, Bill and his team determined that finding new showroom locations was an important first step to take. His past locations were intentionally tucked away because they actually did not want walk-in traffic. They were – like many of us – so busy, they needed to be less accessible. This made sense until faced with our industry’s Great Recession. His past business focus was selling and supporting largely new home builders – a market that virtually all but dried up.
Bill and his team learned a great deal from each other over four years about creating a great new showroom location. The first experience taught them the most. Moving forward, they applied these team learnings to work smarter, not harder, for their new second location. We are fortunate that they have graciously agreed to share some tips to help those of us facing a similar situation.
As you consider your future and your showroom’s sustainability, there are several keys that will benefit you – especially if you’re starting over with new, improved locations for your showroom.
- Make something key to rally around that will drive sales as the main focus of the showroom. Otherwise, why have a showroom?
- While keeping kitchen and bath displays simple and relatable, show as many combinations as possible to educate with physical supports for your words.
- Smaller displays can rotate out faster, be refreshed more easily and save money while keeping your showroom appearing up-to-date with less expense and work.
- Make the walls, flooring and ceiling the same throughout the showroom, as a backdrop that does not compete with what you are selling, so the displays are the main focus.
- Light all areas well and with lighting that spotlights your product displays. Use a lighting expert to get the best for the least cost.
- Design the showroom to be interactive so customers can see and touch what they’ve researched online, and can visualize their own future kitchen or bath.
- Don’t show everything you carry but use important space for what really drives revenue. Curate product offerings and displays so that your presentation will be easier and more dynamic.
- Dedicate space for both making the presentations and closing the sale so it’s a familiar space. Spend less time and space allocation with “the backroom” areas.
- Arrange some workstations on the showroom floor, near the key sales driving displays, so that you are present and available to customers naturally.
- Reserve at least one display for product comparisons, such as cabinetry. Show different door style overlays, different price points and separate features. Decisions will be made more easily and quickly. This simplified approach can work as well for plumbing displays.
- Take advantage of exterior windows to maximize views inside and out, day or night. Great and well-planned lighting will make this possible.
- If you want walk-in traffic, be located where it is possible. Engage them from the road with the showroom to stop by or make an appointment. Be tasteful in this technique.
- Make sure the showroom is easily accessible from parking through to the entrance.
- Plan a couple of “wow” displays that customers will assume they can afford.
- If the showroom is ultra high-end, displays will need to be even more inspiring. Relate your displays to your shopping locality so you are aligned with your market. Include displays that give you something interesting and informative to tell your visitor to confirm you are their trusted advisor.
As a spokesman for Freedom Design, Bill Staycheff says it best, “Now what’s your plan for your future? Don’t go alone, but work with your resources, your team, your local market connection to set a path where the entire team and the business wins – together!” ▪