As 2021 draws to a close, I hope you are safe, healthy and satisfied that business is profitable, albeit challenging. There is so much to be thankful for, and I hope you express your gratitude to the people who made your showrooms perform.
If you haven’t figured it out or heard in every recent article, the showroom world has changed —– and I hope you and your team are rapidly changing to adapt to the new rules of business. Here are some of the observations and stats from 2021 you should be aware of:
1. Fifty-seven percent of showroom remodel spending is coming from millennials. With that being the case, how are you changing your showroom to make it:
• More entertaining with more hospitality?
• A place where you can take a selfie (beautifully designed and photo-worthy)?
• A place where technology intersects with brick-and-mortar?
• A place where hours are adjusted for the convenience of the shopper?
• Visible with marketing campaigns and using social commerce?
2. Supply chain issues are not going away. With that being the case, how are you changing to:
• Improve your communications strategy to improve customer service?
• Embrace technology that helps improve communication?
• Embrace suppliers outside of your normal channel?
• Cooperate with other independent showrooms to share material when needed?
3. Personnel shortages aren’t going away. With that being the case, how are you changing to:
• Embrace technology so you don’t need as much staffing in the showroom?
• Constantly recruiting and holding a bench of talent?
• Train your people to manage the sales cycle faster and more accurately?
• Obsess on keeping the right people on your team?
When the brakes lay on this economy, and they will, those showrooms who invested and committed to people, technology and process will manage to stay afloat. In the meantime, I hope you invest some time in December writing thank-you notes to everyone deserving of one.
Technology is the biggest problem I encounter in all decorative showroom businesses. Whether it is lighting, tile or bath/ kitchen, I still see companies slow to change in the use of tools that are now essential for success. From website updates to even social media marketing, most showrooms are inconsistent at best and need to change.
So many showrooms have a specification program that doesn’t connect to their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, or the website doesn’t connect, or the ERP really isn’t designed for showroom sales. It is a lack of investment and a lack of willingness to change that will kill a showroom. While I hate using the word disruption, there is no better way to describe what COVID-19 has done to this world of ours.
The Positives of 2021
I’m sure by now you are not only Zoomed out but also tired of reading about the overall chaos, personnel shortages and all the other plagues of 2021. So, what happened that was good? Here are a few items to be thankful for:
• Business has never been better for most people. Despite the troubled supply chain and the lack of help, the ability to grow your bottom line is unlike anything most of us have seen.
• The broken supply chain also broke habits of purchasing, which opened the door for new products to be sold and new habits of sourcing. In my opinion, this is a great opportunity for showroom managers and owners to measure the changes.
• Because of the changes in habits, new relationships are formed, and suppliers once locked out have had an opportunity to prove their worth. In some cases, they are likely better partners than your original ones.
• Salespeople legitimately and ethically were able to use fear as a selling tool. Saying “order it today or it will be 30 percent higher or out of stock tomorrow” was a real and chilling statement.
• Salespeople changed their selling habits because of out-of-stocks, so some of the catalogs were opened for the first time with new partners.
• Showrooms generally learned how to manage operating hours and set appointments in a creative way.
• The restaurant business helped the consumer to be comfortable using QR codes; I believe they will become more of a necessity in the near term in showrooms.
• Many showrooms learned they need to improve their websites, offer online appointments and virtual tours, and become more accessible.
• Many showrooms enhanced their social media presence and conducted marketing campaigns they had never tried before.
• Showrooms likely sold off old displays and junk stock that customers had to settle for.
• Showrooms communicated with other showrooms more to see if they were the only ones going through this.
• Maybe some of those people who left you to work someplace else weren’t as good as you thought; maybe your new hire will be even better.
• Some of the people you now must pay more will perform better and take care of their families better.
• I have seen many showrooms giving back, working in their communities and being charitable.
While so many people struggle to see the good that has come from the past few years, I see the changes needed in showrooms as a positive. When consumers step into your showroom, you know they mean business and are looking for something special.
Luxury showroom selling is the ability to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is the realization of a dream that combines product, design, service, storytelling and experience. Many of your customers will only remodel a room once in a lifetime.
With more people at home, more people are tired of looking at their dated baths and kitchens. So often salespeople are only good at one or two aspects of the experience. Just missing one of those elements ruins the overall opportunity to sell.
As a showroom employee, you can’t be the one who doesn’t demonstrate empathy, hospitality or product knowledge. The showroom can’t afford to retain average employees anymore. I challenge all showroom employees in 2022 to commit to mastering all aspects of luxury selling. There is no better time than now to make a difference in your showroom and in your community.