Showroom Protocols Changing Due to Virus, KBDN Poll Finds

EVANSTON, IL — Significant short- and long-term changes in protocol are being implemented at the nation’s kitchen and bath showrooms due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clients, prospects, subcontractors and business owners.

That’s the key finding of a major new survey by Kitchen & Bath Design News among kitchen and bath design firms across the U.S. The survey, conducted in mid-June, revealed that even while the impact of the coronavirus is receding – and the housing and remodeling markets rebounding with the phased reopening of the economy – showrooms are undergoing major change. Among the changes are the implementation of a wide range of virus-mitigation strategies, the use of by-appointment-only visits, entire redesigns, and the increased use of digital tools, including website upgrades, virtual showroom tours and product presentations, and meetings with clients, prospects and subcontractors.

Some of these changes are likely temporary, lasting for only as long as the virus remains a major factor, survey respondents tell KBDN. Other changes, they suggest, may well be permanent – part of a major paradigm shift, or “new reality,” for the kitchen/bath design trade.

According to the survey’s findings, the majority of kitchen and bath showroom owners – more than 69% – report that their showrooms are open full-time, while 23% say their showrooms are open by appointment-only. About 6% say their showrooms are fully open, although with reduced hours of operation. Only a fraction remain closed entirely due to government virus-mitigation efforts or corporate decisions.

With the initial impact of the coronavirus having passed – and virus-mitigation strategies by showroom owners having been implemented – the majority of kitchen and bath clients and prospects are either confident now, or are slowly regaining confidence, in visiting showrooms, surveyed firms reported.

Design firms report they have also implemented a wide range of virus-mitigation strategies at their showrooms. Among the most common are the imposition of disinfecting protocols for high-touch surfaces, providing hand-sanitizing stations at showroom entrances and exits, and the creation of safe spaces between customers, designers and other team members.

A significant number of showroom owners report they are currently adding, or are contemplating adding, more virtual and visual tools to their operation. Among the leading actions being taken are the scheduling of additional online meetings/digital consultations with clients and subs, as well as enhanced online communication to present products, designs and proposals.

While 27.9% say they have not made nor are contemplating significant changes to their showroom operations, 24% say the changes they have made are permanent and 48% say the changes are temporary, for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic lasts. While 44.3% believe the virus-related showroom changes will last six months or less, (55.7%) think they will last longer than 6 months.

Among the survey’s other key findings:

• 53.4% of those surveyed require showroom visitors to wear masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) – for example, gloves. Slightly over 58% of the surveyed showroom owners say they supply the masks and PPE to showroom visitors.

• Only 4.8% of survey respondents currently require visitors to sign a health-screening declaration before entering their showroom. Another 12.5% say they are considering such a declaration, which asks visitors to confirm that, in the past 14 days, they have not returned from international travel, have not experienced flu- or cold-like symptoms, and have not had close contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or experienced cold or flu-like symptoms.

• Survey respondents report that 57.7% of showroom visitors and team members are willing to use touchscreens and keypads to view videos or operate working displays. By comparison, 13.4% are unwilling and 28.9% are willing, although concerned.

• 94% say they currently take steps to regularly sanitize their showroom, in most cases (75%) sanitizing on a daily basis.

• A significant number of respondents say they are either currently redesigning (17.6%) or contemplating (12.8%) a redesign of their showroom. Very few (6.8%) say they are contemplating closing their showroom permanently, while 11.8% report they are contemplating downsizing.

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