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Ensuring you have an understanding and appreciation for other types of showroom businesses is critical to your success as a decorative plumbing showroom salesperson. If you are truly a great designer, you will take a comprehensive approach to the showroom sale and include as many channels of products as possible in the sale.
I attend many shows during the year, from the International Contemporary Furniture Fair to Lightovation. These shows are driven by the design community and display cutting-edge products. Both events were well-attended in 2022. In speaking with a few showroom designers, they were surprised by how few “new” products and designs hit the floor.
It appears that the reason is that manufacturers can’t even keep up with their old designs. Why create new inventory and supply issues? It is as if the supply chain has forced the slowing of trends.
This may be good for decorative showrooms in the short term. With the rising costs of products and fewer display deals out there, the odds of remodeling the showroom and doing the industry standard 25-percent changeout will slow slightly. Showrooms can sit tight and measure what they are selling on the floor and be even more diligent when doing the homework on which displays to buy.
The beauty of going to Lightovation is seeing trends such as wood tones, wicker (a nod to the 1970s designs) and mid-century modern get the lighting showroom people excited. I am sure in the next round of products in plumbing, you will see some of the same styles taking shape.
Some key feedback from showroom people at the show was the price increases in lighting being a concern. From list price increases to fuel surcharges and increased forward freight agreements, there were plenty of reasons not to buy at the show. Showrooms should always be investing in new displays if they are able to but beware of the costs and lead times.
In speaking with Eric Jacobsen, president of the American Lighting Association, we discussed his initiative on healthy home lighting and connected products. “Light is the heart of your home,” he says. “It can have a profound effect on all aspects of life: your mood, work and health. It makes it even more important to let a lighting showroom professional help you design a lighting plan that meets your emotional and physical needs.”
For example, as people age, the types of lighting they need and find comfortable change. The proper lighting can make all the difference — even in your sleep patterns and circadian rhythms. Showrooms of all types need to understand this and make sure the products they are selecting are in concert with the lighting needed to complete the design of the room.
One of the challenges that is more prevalent in lighting showrooms as opposed to plumbing showrooms is consumers’ lack of brand knowledge. In many cases, a consumer is not aware of the brand names in lighting, which poses a few issues:
Because the consumer does not interact with the lighting physically, such as a faucet, they are less inclined to care about brand and more inclined to shop online.
Designs and intellectual property are quickly copied by import manufacturers, making lighting a challenge to truly display unique products for any period of time.
Lighting showrooms usually limit themselves to only lighting and do not venture into a more holistic approach, which hurts sales.
Plumbing showrooms are usually visited first by the consumer since behind-the-wall products need to be ordered before anything else, which gives them the advantage if they decide to sell lighting.
Offer the Whole Package
I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted by a lighting rep agency that was interested in branching out to hardware lines and, eventually, plumbing. This agency recognized that lighting is limiting itself, and many lighting rep agencies look down on plumbing showrooms. The reasons are usually:
Plumbing showrooms, for some reason, do not know how to work off of net pricing and expect to use a multiplier for everything. They get confused when working on pure net.
Plumbing showrooms do not take the time to learn lighting properly and expect lighting to sell itself.
Plumbing showrooms do not invest in displays properly and do not usually employ a dedicated lighting expert (they should).
Sadly, those perceptions are generally true. I hope a few of you read this column and ask some questions of your team to see if adding categories to your showroom makes sense. Even with hardware: the best showrooms dive deep into selling door hardware, not only cabinet hardware. This is another highly profitable venture but requires training, investment and effort.
The concern I have is that now with showrooms generally having their heads buried in the sand of brisk business, supply chain and human resource issues, they are not taking the time to take a 10,000-foot view of their business, their competition and where the future of the industry is headed.
I fully believe that brick-and-mortar will need to be much more than “just a plumbing” or “just a lighting” showroom. Consumers want to buy the vignette/total display. They want the solution. As the owner, you must plan where you fit in the marketplace — and be able to articulate how you are different, and what you do better than the others in your marketplace.
I had a great chat with a rep who works on both the lighting and plumbing sides of the business, and she said that the second she walks into a showroom, she knows if it was designed by a woman or a man. She believes a woman will design a showroom of primarily vignettes and “complete thoughts” while a male-designed showroom is rows of products (faucets, toilets, etc.), where everything is bulked together.
She also said that showrooms are only showrooms when they have a designer on staff; otherwise, they are just faucet stores. I found that to be a compelling statement and, for the most part, agree.
If you are a plumbing showroom professional and choose not to learn about and sell lighting, you should at least partner and consult with a lighting professional so your showroom looks and feels what a consumer’s home will look and feel like. Washing out the entire showroom with the same lighting gives the feel of an Apple store; while bright and cool, it does not give the proper effect.
My favorite showrooms get as excited about selling plumbing as they do lighting. Let’s work on tile next!
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