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When the opportunity came to develop a new showroom, Best Plumbing, a family-owned plumbing company based in Seattle, decided it was time as the existing showroom had been operating for more than 20 years. After purchasing the building next door, the firm started work, with showroom manager Janine Winkelmaier leading the project.
Though the new space is smaller, around 1,500 square feet, Winkelmaier says, “Coming over here, I was looking to ensure that every bit of space in the showroom would be productive.”
The goal was to create a new showroom that is luxurious yet feels comfortable and never overwhelming. Armed with a degree in interior design and retail experience, Winkelmaier focused on developing a well-thought-out layout, implementing smart merchandising techniques, and using custom display fixtures with a consistent, neutral color scheme. Aesthetics were key; Best Plumbing’s Commercial Division works with many local architects, contractors and designers who send their clients in for product selection.
Showroom design firm SH Design-Build was selected through Best Plumbing’s Luxury Products Group association to work on the new showroom design. Winkelmaier says it was a great collaboration.
“From the beginning, we worked very well together,” she explains. “We had a very short window to work in, and I think we moved and made decisions quickly. SH’s ability to lay it out and help me with the fixturing was fabulous. We came up with a design that allows us to have a lot of merchandise, but people won’t see it all at once.”
The Best Plumbing showroom offers a variety of products — including hardware and accessories such as towel warmers — but stays focused on, as Winkelmaier puts it, “anything that water goes through or touches.” Most products are from luxury lines to offer clients a glimpse at what’s available beyond the big-box style of plumbing fixtures. The showroom also displays products by unique vendors and companies the company has worked well with over the years.
For Winkelmaier, it’s about finding the products that work for her customers, as well as maintaining strong relationships with vendors.
Allowing Product to Shine
While offering a wide variety of items from different companies is important, Best Plumbing’s own brand speaks loudest of all throughout the showroom. The display fixtures were custom-made by SH Design-Build to suit the layout.
“It’s very consistent and the color scheme is very mellow,” Winkelmaier notes. “There’s not a lot of color because we wanted the materials and finishes to be the color. It allows the merchandise to be the only thing you see; I think that helps the eye not feel overwhelmed.”
To keep the showroom feeling spacious, Best Plumbing primarily displays its best-selling items. Knowing that she and the rest of the sales staff could speak to the many other products available on the market, Winkelmaier and her team highlight the conversation starters and work towards finding what the client desires.
Ultimately, that’s what is at the heart of the showroom — an exceptional customer experience, ensuring that everyone who comes in can find what they’re looking for, with support from Best Plumbing’s experienced staff. With the Seattle metro area as their market, the showroom has a clientele base covering the income and wealth spectrum.
“We offer a selection that connects with homeowners,” Winkelmaier explains. “But we also have the very high-end luxury items that a number of our customers are looking for.”
The overall flow — first impressions of the space, how clients are greeted and guided through the showroom — was a major factor in how the showroom was laid out. It was important to Winkelmaier that it was easy to walk through, display the right products, and seamlessly move to the next area.
“Every once in a while, a long-time customer says it’s so much smaller, but they follow up by saying it all makes sense. Those are words I wanted to hear,” Winkelmaier says.
Client appointments are coordinated to ensure everyone has space to enjoy the experience. A workstation in the center of the showroom provides a place for staff and clients to sit or stand, complete with access to the showroom’s library of catalogs and samples.
Best Plumbing also offers a virtual shopping experience. Clients who don’t want to come into the showroom can use showroom.bestplumbing.com to create wish lists, communicate with sales associates and get quotes, photos and information for anything they are interested in.
“Some people are cautious about coming into the showroom,” she explains. “The website allows us to work with them virtually by having all the images from hundreds of different vendors. Some clients can make decisions from pictures and some prefer to see and feel the items. We needed to make it easy for all our current and potential customers.”
By designing a showroom built for luxury and comfort, offering different ways to interact with staff and products, and focusing on creating an exceptional experience, Best Plumbing has a showroom that, in Winkelmaier’s words, “makes sense.”
While it’s been a challenge opening during the pandemic and navigating Seattle’s booming market, Best Plumbing has started promoting the new showroom in various ways. Winkelmaier says the feedback so far has been great.