Pat Lenius 2014-01-08 06:30:48
Next-generation showrooms: An interview with David Hawkins An astute showroom operator said, “You are either in the showroom business or you are not,” according to award-winning showroom designer David Hawkins. “Are you committed to having the best showroom and best offerings that lead to consumer confidence?” Now is the time to make improvements to showrooms, Hawkins advised. “When things are slow, showrooms should invest the money and focus on making changes so they are prepared for the upturn in the economy.” David Hawkins Design Management offers design services and casework to showroom operators. The company has been working on “next-generation” showrooms for multiple clients over a period of years that have been proven to increase sales. One recent installation of this showroom concept boosted sales by 40% over the first 60 days it was open, Hawkins said. Among the key features of these new concept showrooms: Modular displays so products can be switched in and out quickly and easily, with minimal disruption to the showroom. “Find what sells,” he said. More product is displayed in a smaller footprint to improve sales per sq. ft. No “empty holes” are permitted in displays (where product is clearly missing). Selective, proprietary products are included in the mix to set the showroom apart from competitors. Create a boutique within the showroom to showcase a unique line, perhaps a higher-end imported brand. Offer some exclusive supplementary items such as towels and robes. The floor plans, graphics and displays are designed to reflect the partnership between the showroom operator and the manufacturers. The showroom brands itself as a destination and a knowledgeable industry professional. “We want the local showroom dealer to be the go-to guy who can steer customers in the right direction,” Hawkins said. Even as Internet sales continue to cut into showroom sales, showrooms may need to supplement their business with online sales. Customers will visit showrooms for pricier, higher quality items they want to touch before they buy. The Internet has expanded the radius from which customers are drawn to the showroom. “Stress customer service and relationships,” he urged. “Differentiate your showroom from big- box stores and rudimentary showrooms.” Most important is to create an experience and inspire the “wow” factor when the customer enters, he said. “Go for creature comforts. Have music and refreshments. Maintain a clean showroom with excellent, up-to-date displays and flattering lighting for visual impact,” Hawkins asserted. Use social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate the quality of your showroom, enhancements in its design and presentation and product mix. This should lead to increased traffic and higher sales, Hawkins noted. Cultivate relationships with designers, architects and developers, Hawkins advised. Include space in your showroom where these people can meet privately with clients or network with each other. “The designer can become your showroom’s advocate,” he said. “Make your showroom the professional selection center for these people. Let the designer sell products for you.” David Hawkins can be reached by phone at: 234-678-6257 or email him at: david@ davidhawkinsdesign.com.
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