Hank Darlington 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Entries for this year’s competition showed terrific quality, but the quantity was lacking. This is my favorite article of the year. It’s also my hardest! Being one of the judges and poring through all the material attached to each nomination is a huge job. But it’s also fun, enlightening, educational and exhilarating. I get to see all the terrific things many of you folks are doing with your showrooms. When I started writing these articles more than 15 years ago, most wholesaler showrooms were basic, bare-bones and not very exciting. Well, that has changed dramatically. Many of the showrooms being built out today are truly terrific. It makes me proud of this great industry to see so many of you doing great things with your showrooms. It’s no secret that showrooms have been a passion of mine for the past 30+ years. What an incredible, exciting, satisfying experience it’s been for me to see a vision grow into a reality. However, I have to admit that I’m very disappointed at the number of nominations sent in for the 2010 Showroom of the Year. The quality was terrific, but the quantity was lacking. I frankly don’t understand this. Is the nominating process too involved? Aren’t you proud enough of your showroom to enter it? Is it a time factor? Give me some help in this area. If we need to redo the “rules,” we will. I know there are many showrooms out there that deserve to be recognized. The great PR that the winners receive should be incentive enough to make the effort to put your nomination in front of the judges. So now, let’s announce the winners for 2010! • For the category 10,000 sq. ft. And larger, the winner is: Banner Plumbing Supply, Buffalo Grove, IL (top,right). • For the category 2,500 — 9,999 sq. ft., the winner is: Plumbing Distributors Inc., Atlanta, GA(bottom,right). • For the category 2,500 — 9,999 sq. ft., the winner is: Plumbing Distributors Inc., Atlanta, GA(bottom,right). In this issue we will profile Banner Plumbing Supply. Be sure to read the December issue of Supply House Times for “Showroom of the Year — Part 2” profiling Plumbing Distributors Inc. <b>Banner Plumbing Supply</b> Banner was founded in 1947 by Charles Greenspon. His son, Lee, became president in the early 1990s and has led the company — along with vice presidents Gene Hara, Andy Chavez and Rick Meyer — since then. The company headquarters are in Buffalo Grove, IL, outside of Chicago. They operate from a 126,000-sq.-ft. facility that was opened in 2007. Banner entered the showroom business in 2008 and immediately built out a spectacular 15,000-sq.-ft. facility. Michelle Henderson, the current showroom manager, was hired to head up the design and build out of this beautiful showroom. In addition to Ms. Henderson, there are five sales associates and a full-time handyman. In spite of tough economic conditions these past couple of years, showroom sales have grown almost every month and the GP margin is above the average wholesaler’s. Sales are pretty evenly split between the trades and the homeowner. The showroom is located on the second floor (yes, there are stairs and an elevator) of a beautiful 20-year-old building (renovated three years ago) located off a busy street in a high-end industrial park. It is a destination stop, but well worth the effort to get there. There is plenty of convenient parking. Customers are greeted by a showroom coordinator who finds out the client’s name, what brought them to the showroom and then introduces them to a sales associate. The client is also offered refreshments tastefully served in china cups and with napkins imprinted with the Banner name. The showroom is big, with high ceilings and lots of light which provides a very nice, wide-open feeling.It’s decorated with an art element that gives it a calm and relaxing atmosphere. It is beautifully built out and all products are displayed on their own faucet pods, boards and tub boxes. The showroom reflects very little manufacturer branding — which they’ve done very nicely. A good mix of both traditional wholesaler products (American Standard, Delta, Moen, Elkay, etc.) and a number of higher end decorative lines are carried. They have done a great job accessorizing the displays and have incorporated excellent lighting throughout the showroom. The showroom features 16 vignettes displaying the full range of traditional and contemporary products.These products also represent the full range of price points available. There are lots of working displays, including bathtubs, showerheads, steam generators, lav and kitchen faucets and even water closets. Customers are encouraged to come in after hours and try out any or all of these products. The company installed two Noritz 13.2 tankless water heaters that serve the entire building and all of the showroom’s working tubs and showers. There’s even a working dog-washing station. The working kitchen is used for special events with “celebrity chefs” and cooking demonstrations. There is a touch-screen video “juke box” type kiosk in the showroom that allows clients to view several educational fi lms. It’s interactive and helps educate and entertain the client. “Green” is emphasized throughout the showroom. The hours are 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.Thursday; and 10 a. m. - 4 p.m. Saturday. The showroom is treated as a separate profit center with monthly profit and loss statements. Sales associates are paid a salary plus incentives based on monthly sales and gross profit. Training of sales associates and customers is an important function. The company provides both product knowledge and sales training, conducted by manufacturers reps and outside consultants, every Wednesday and Thursday from 8 to 9 a.m. Product knowledge training is also offered for plumbers. A state-of-the-art training/conference room is used for these training activities. The company belongs to and is active with the National Kitchen & Bath Association, Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association, and several plumbing contractor groups. They have hosted the local NKBA chapter meeting and have plans to host other trade organizations. As a relatively new showroom business, Banner is utilizing a number of creative marketing opportunities. They have developed two professionally filmed commercials that appear on local cable television and tell their showroom story. They have used a large billboard, located on a heavily traveled expressway running into Chicago. Recently, they installed an Electronic billboard on their building which will also help tell potential clients about the showroom. In addition, they have done a great job obtaining some valuable public relations — the showroom has been featured in several “home” type magazines, in local newspapers, trade publications and has even been featured on the morning news on local television. They are currently redoing their Web site to make it more user-friendly and effective. Plus, they have started using social media — specifically Facebook and Twitter — to help get the word out. Clients who visit the showroom are presented with a nicely done “Banner Bag” tied with a handmade bow to carry out brochures, quotes, samples, etc. Michelle Henderson stated that many people aren’t made to feel special enough in their everyday lives, so the folks at Banner try to make them feel as special and welcome as possible when visiting their showroom. Firsthand experience has shown me what a terrific job they have done/are doing in this relatively new, but beautifully done showroom. Congratulations to the entire Banner team! Our second winner is Plumbing Distributors Inc. for their showroom at 1121 Huff Road, Atlanta, GA. Watch for December Supply House Times to read more about this outstanding showroom in “Showroom Of The Year — Part 2.”
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