Profitable Showrooms
November 1st, 2006

By Patti Fasan

November-December 2006

Delivering the look, feel and touch of fashion starts with a stylish showroom and extends to the service you offer every visitor.

Profitable ceramic tile showrooms concentrate on three very focused goals:

• Differentiating themselves from the rest of the players. The Look.

• Driving productivity and adding value through training and knowledge. The Feel.

• Defining and meeting customer wants, needs and desires through dedicated research. The Touch.

First, clutter is out and style is in. Your ceramic tile showroom must look like a fashion center rather than a collection of building materials. Single tile boards, cartons of tile and pallets of mortar scream commodity. Ceramic tile showrooms must imitate other fashion retailers and incorporate effective display strategies. Your customers’ first impression should define you as an expert in design and home fashion.

Evaluate your showroom to see if you are following these common sense rules:

First Impressions: Look at your showroom through your client’s eyes. Does it convey professionalism and fashion? Consider your showroom outside and inside. Use dramatic night time lighting in your windows and around your property.

Neatness: It’s easy not to notice. Spot-check your showroom critically each week and act to form a positive impression. Housekeeping should be as immaculate and impressive as the rest of your service.

Lighting: When comparing color, the type of lighting is crucial. Use a combination including natural, incandescent, fluorescent and halogen. Use a higher level of light on a key display. When placed strategically, this can serve as a beacon, drawing your clients through the store and past all of your products. Replace any burnt out lights.

Displays: Your showroom should look well stocked and up-to-date, with ample room between aisles. Don’t let your products get lost in clutter.

Accessories: They should be seasonal, local and new. Ceramic tile gives you an opportunity to introduce historic and cultural appeal. Think of background music, floral arrangements, art-posters and scents as accessories. Use all five senses to create “experience” shopping

Reference materials: Have home décor and other reference magazines available. Make sure to keep only the most current issue of any magazine making a clear statement that your store is up to date on the latest trends in interior design and fashion finishes. Clip feature articles or interesting photos out of older magazines and organize these in user friendly binders categorizing each area of the house where tiles are used. i.e. fireplaces, bathrooms, kitchens, feature walls, exterior projects, etc.

Leverage Your Window Displays

Windows are your hardest working “Silent Salesperson” and your opportunity to advertise your store 24 hours a day—7 days a week. They deliver the message to potential customers before they even consider entering the store. Feature ceramic tile in your front windows. Let your clients know you are a full service showroom where all their ceramic tile needs can be met.

Showrooms offer enclosed or open windows or a combination of both. Enclosed windows have a full backdrop and do not allow views into your showroom. Enclosed windows should have dramatic night-time lighting and feature a specialty theme. Open windows provide views into the store beyond. Similar techniques to the enclosed window can be employed with evenly spaced displays. Narrow fabric backdrops or screens can be used behind each setting to partially obscure the store beyond. Create a sense of mystery while your display provides focus for the viewer.

Showroom Displays

Once inside the showroom, treat customers and potential customers to a variety of displays that demonstrate various materials and installations.

Miniature vignettes featuring multi-tile fixed displays should capture the corner of a room, a fireplace setting, part of a kitchen or bath and be dressed with appropriate accessories. Create intimate settings that invite your client to sit and enjoy the ambiance of your showroom. Smaller displays include sectioned floor pads and vertical full height, wall layout boards. Use different patterns, combinations and tile trim pieces to highlight your design capabilities. Vary the layout patterns using European Grid, herringbone, 45 degree inset, brick set, etc.

Use single pieces of tile or loose samples to create mobile displays. Incorporate designer’s concept boards that show other interior finishes on a project including your tile; mini 18” color story boards; posters of tile in a lifestyle setting; or a photograph of your latest installation. Be creative! The more times your customer sees a tile in combination with other tiles and with different colors the more they begin to understand how you can design a unique scheme for their home.

Try to display each tile in three unique ways: a vignette, a single sample and a lifestyle poster. You don’t want your customer to “miss or dismiss” your selection of tiles. Concept boards can be placed anywhere in your showroom. Use easels, framed tile boards or add wheels to a vertical display. Remember to play with your tiles and mix and match different lines to create unique combinations.

Collaborate with additional resources in your community such as paint, fabric, and wallpaper vendors, sharing samples that will enhance your concept boards. These alliances may also introduce you to new contacts.

The Knowledgeable Feel

The physical appeal of your showroom must convince your clients of your expertise within the first 60 seconds, but the professional expertise and knowledge of your staff is what will turn browsers into buyers and, eventually, long term loyal customers. Your clients’ level of confidence is directly proportional to the salesperson’s expertise.

The ceramic tile industry is evolving at warp speed, and training must be an ongoing commitment reinforced with informational prompts in your showroom. Information is key. Educate your customers with easily defined price labels and codes.

Labels should have more information than price per square foot:

TYPE: Floor/Wall, Interior/Exterior

PRICE: Square foot or per piece

PEI: Unglazed or Class 0–5

WA: Percentage of Water Absorption

STYLE: Color/Texture Variation—V1–V4

This type of labeling helps train new employees, eliminates guesswork or misinformation, and can clearly define the value of each product. It also makes it easy for clients to decide and buy.

Use technical information in brochures and posters in your showroom to educate your clients, initiate conversations, encourage questions, train your staff and demonstrate your expertise on technical industry standards.

Display the CTDA charts on Color/Shade Variation (V1–V4) that graphically show the level of variation a customer can expect within certain tile styles especially when a specific display may not be representative of the true nature of the variation found in each carton.

List the Porcelain Enamel Institutes (PEI) five different classifications for glazed ceramic/porcelain tiles showing typical areas of best intended use for each type.

List the four ranges of Water Absorption (WA) percentage of a ceramic body that are used to guide the correct selection of tile for specific areas of use.

Create a Feature and Benefit sheet for commercial or highly technical products.

Compile a brag book of your ideas and installations. Include pictures of unique applications using ceramic tile as well as useful information relating to all phases of a renovation.

Set up a VCR or DVD player in your showroom where installation videos can be viewed. This area can have a dual purpose. Have some children’s movies on hand and use this area when you need 15 uninterrupted minutes with the parents to close a sale.

Even a children’s gallery or play area can highlight the many creative uses for ceramic tile: make a chalkboard surrounded by attractive border or décor tile; make a checker board using mosaic tile, and checkers from smaller mosaics; create a bright white tiled wall sprinkled with removable colored tile (velcro the back). Write the color name on the back of each tile; or design a racetrack or roadway on the floor using different colors of tile. It’s amazing what can be done when you let your imagination flow!

The Professional Touch

Our clients truly want and expect more. They are looking for: a wide selection; the best quality for their money; products that are good for their health and well being and, increasingly, good for the environment; easy maintenance; highest fashion; and an experience that leaves them feeling good about themselves, their home and their choices.

Every retailer should have a clearly defined target market. Spend time creating a picture of your customer: their demographic age, price range, and style. Seventy percent of your product selection should be a perfect match for this customer. Divide the remaining 30 percent of your samples between much lower priced and much higher priced tile selections. The budget tile should always be a narrow selection of color and trim options, but always readily available. The highest priced tile ranges should have every bell and whistle, be fashion forward and displayed like precious jewels in the showroom. Make the difference between the three groups of tile apparent. This will distinguish the features of each range and highlight the value of your core tile selection.

Assume every customer has the potential to be one of your best clients. The guy who bought 5 lineal feet of trim tile on one occasion really does return when he needs to tile all his floors if his previous experience with your store was over the top. Value EVERY client.

Every client who enters your showroom, whether they purchase or not, should be invited to be included on your contact list. Advertise in-store the benefits of signing up: newsletter; free seminars on tile and other decorating crafts; invitation to client only pre-sales; special promotions and social events; VIP status and referral discounts; and annual color and fashion trend forecast email. Put sign-up email sheets on your reception desk as clients are more likely to join if personal information such as address and phone number is not solicited.

Greet every client. Inquire if this is their first visit. Record what brought them in to your store. Invite them to participate in your benefit program.

Every new purchase should automatically generate an expanded contact request. When sales staff develop a client’s trust and exceed their expectations, they are happy to provide the store with additional contact information such as the names of their Realtor, Builder, Architect, and Designer.

Develop mail-outs or other communiqués that directly target each of these groups of potential clients. Automate the system with your administration and sales staff until it is routine. Consider sending product videos from manufacturers to the architects and designers; referral discount coupons to the realtors; an in-store Design Service announcement to the builders.

Organize a time triggered series of contacts for every sale. Schedule each subsequent contact in your agenda immediately after completing the previous action plan.

• Sandwich Board—on site during installation. Anyone in the neighborhood doing a renovation is exposed to your marketing. Consider distributing flyers in the area also. Or plan a site visit with your contractor on the first day of installation.

• Thank You Note—1st week after installation. There is no substitution for a hand written note from the salesperson. High-end retailers do this because it works.

• Satisfaction Survey—3-4 months after installation. Statistically only 1 in 50 people complain. You should know if there is a problem and have the chance to fix it. It is also a proven fact that if you remedy a problem, your client becomes even more loyal.

• VIP Program/Referral Certificate—6 months after install. Encourage your client to bring in a friend who may also enjoy your exceptional service. A discount certificate that your client can pass on to a friend is often acted on.

• “Haven’t seen you lately”—9 months after installation. A friendly reminder of how important each client is to you. It is also a great time to let your clients know about new arrivals in your showroom.

• Warranty Reminder—11 months after installation. Or 30 days prior to a warranty expiration. This is a great opportunity to ask if your client is considering future work and builds on the trust you have developed. In most cases you will be reinforcing the fact that your job has been trouble free and be giving your client another reason to brag about your care and service. It costs approximately five times as much to generate a new client compared to soliciting business from an existing client.

Having a successful, profitable showroom is entirely up to you. If you think you can—or if you think you can’t—you’re absolutely RIGHT!

Patti Fasan is a Certified Ceramic Tile Consultant (CTC) from the Ceramic Tile Institute of America (CTIOA) and has lectured in Europe, the United States and Canada. Her consulting firm (PATTI) Professional Attention To Tile Installations focuses on technical expertise while her stage presence and vibrant personality inspire audiences to maximize their creative potential.

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