authors Janice Costa | April 30, 2017
There’s been a lot of talk about where the showroom is heading, as more retailers morph into etailers and a combination of new technology, generational changes and an Internet-educated buyer continue to impact how consumers shop for a kitchen or bath.
But while some argue that showrooms may well lose importance in this internet age, others insist the need to see, touch and feel products and get professional guidance will keep the kitchen and bath showroom a staple for consumers looking to remodel.
Today, showrooms continue to be an important part of the kitchen and bath landscape, both as a product showcase and as a client meeting space, with showroom sizes trending upward slightly and interest in technology growing.
This is according to a recent KBDN survey, which polled more than 220 kitchen and bath dealers and designers about current showroom trends.
While the Great Recession caused some to rethink their business model and trade in the expense of a showroom for a design-only strategy, the vast majority of those surveyed (88.2%) say they have a showroom (see Graph 1).
The average showroom size of those polled was 2,650 square feet, up a little more than 200 square feet over a similar KBDN survey done in 2015. Nor does it appear that big changes are on the horizon; of those polled, the vast majority (84.4%) don’t anticipate making any changes to their showroom space in the next 12 months, though 14.1% of respondents cited plans to increase their showroom size in the coming year (see Graph 2) while only a very small fraction (1.5%) expected to decrease their showroom size in the next 12 months.
However, showroom sizes continue to vary dramatically depending on the dealer’s location, needs and desired business model, with showrooms ranging from super-sized designer playrooms that boast 10,000 square feet or more to micro showrooms that take up only a few hundred square feet of space while relying on technology to do the rest.
When it comes to displays, it’s no surprise that kitchen products take up the lion’s share of the space, with dealers polled devoting 66.6% of their space to kitchen products, compared to only 21.7% to bath products and 11.7% to other products (see Graph 3).
Surveyed dealers also reported an average of three full kitchen displays and 4.1 partial kitchen displays in their showrooms, and an average of 1.1 full bath displays and 2.9 partial bath displays.
While new technology continues to drive fast-paced changes, displays still aren’t being upgraded all that quickly according to survey respondents. In fact, a whopping 38.5% only change or upgrade their displays every three years or more, while 43.9% say they change or upgrade their displays every one to three years, and 12.2% upgrade or change out their showroom displays every six months to a year (see Graph 4). Just a small fraction (5.4%) feel that design and technology innovations are happening at such a fast pace, they need to change or upgrade their displays every six months or less.
For some kitchen and bath dealers, innovation comes from outside sources, with nearly a quarter (24%) of those polled saying they’ve gone to an outside source to design some of their showroom displays (see Graph 5). Of those, 14% of respondents outsourced a quarter or less of their displays, while 10% had more than 25% of their displays created by outside sources.
Whether large or small, the showroom continues to be an important meeting place according to virtually all of the dealers and designers polled. Even if the initial meeting takes place in the client’s home, subsequent meetings usually move to the showroom.
However, where they meet in the showroom varies quite a bit, with some using a private office, some having a separate conference center designed with everything from a large projector screen to a Virtual Reality set up, others using a live display, such as a kitchen island with a seating area and built-in coffee maker to serve drinks or a home office display, and still others using a sample room/selection center or simply a desk tucked in a corner of the showroom floor.
Dealers at larger showrooms often boast several meeting areas, while those with micro showrooms may choose to meet at a vendor showroom located nearby.
Even those who meet in private offices try to use the meeting as another opportunity to show off product, as well as their design skills. As one designer noted, “Our offices are each designed with cabinets and countertops from our product offerings, and we’ve incorporated clever storage solutions to show what we’re capable of. Not only does this send the subtle message that we can help them to better organize whatever space we design for them, but it can also get a kitchen or bath client thinking about a home office remodel down the road.”
Dealers and designers also shared their most commonly used technological tools, with design software not surprisingly topping the list. Other highly prized techno tools cited by survey respondents include smartphones, laptops or tablets, product ordering software, live/interactive appliance displays, large-screen high-def TVs for showcasing projects, cloud-based data storage, marketing/communication software, smart automation displays, wireless charging stations and video conferencing.
Less commonly cited technology included Virtual Reality and video or web cams. As one dealer comments, “We really thought Virtual Reality would be a game changer for our industry – look how well realtors are doing with Virtual Tours – but so far, it just hasn’t lived up to the hype.”
Yet others were more positive, with one saying, “We’re considering an investment in the Virtual Reality experience right now, as we want our showroom to stay current and ahead of the trends.”
Overall, those surveyed seem satisfied with the functionality of the technology they’re currently using, with nearly 90% reporting they are “mostly satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the technology they’re using in their showrooms (see Graph 6). Only 10.5% say they are not very satisfied with the functionality of their technology, and no respondents rated themselves “not at all satisfied.” ▪