PlumbingandMechanical April 2012 : Page 27
T wo plumbing contractors’ product displays help customers focus their search. the company. The showroom dates back to 1956 but has been in its current location for four years. The showrooms of both contractors adjoin their plumbing businesses. Tom Drexler Plumbing’s showroom covers 1,200 sq. ft., which consists of six vignettes and product displays, including hardware, tile, cabinets and walk-in safety tubs. The showroom at Ravinia Plumbing occupies 850 sq. ft. with a variety of toilets and sinks on the floor; kitchen faucets and lavatory faucets are mounted in separate areas on slot-wall displays. Both showrooms are located in older, upscale communities. That means most of their customers prefer plumbing products with traditional styles and finishes, with a smattering of contemporary designs. “We go with relatively timeless collections rather than extremely trendy ones,” Drexler says. “We research what suits our needs, so we look for high-quality products at an affordable price.” Ariano adds: “The products in our showroom represent a cross-section of styles and finishes that go over in this area, which is more traditional.” He helps decide what products to display in the showroom along with Rich Blanchard , who does Ravinia’s purchasing, and Ron LaBarbara , office manager. All three help customers pick out products and can provide design advice for remodeling jobs. They stay on top of trends by reading bath and kitchen trade journals, talking with manufacturers reps, and attending the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show when it’s in Chicago. Ravinia belongs to the Quality Service Contractors group of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association. At Tom Drexler Plumbing, salesman Jeremie Schneiders manages the showroom department. Interior designer Samantha Harris assists with showroom sales and designs bathroom remodeling projects. She’s active in the local chapter of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The company also is a Nexstar member. Showroom benefits Both showrooms are open to the public Monday through Friday with shorter hours on Saturday. While the showrooms get a few walk-ins and tire-kickers, the majority of sales come from the contractors’ existing customers. “Many of our remodeling leads come from our plumbing service company,” Drexler says. “So, most of our showroom customers are our customers already. We use the showroom to close the remodeling jobs we’re selling. “And we use it to help customers choose the products to use in a remodeling project. It simplifies the process. It’s a one-stop shop for them. Customers can pick out their products first hand. They don’t have to go to a tile shop, cabinet shop, etc. We make a little profit on it rather than having them buy products somewhere else.” Drexler’s company does about $1.5 million a year in remodeling and hopes to do $2 million this year. He describes the projects as turnkey jobs with the plumbing, carpentry, tile and other work provided by Tom Drexler Plumbing employees. “Our remodeling jobs average $15,000, so most are mid-range jobs” he says. “We do a few high-end jobs but we make more profit on standard bathroom remodels. Most of our jobs are not too intricate and these are where our showroom helps us and what we try to target.” One particular niche is the aging-in-place market, Drexler adds. “The average plumber may not realize how much opportunity he may have of working with people who are staying in their homes or are aging and need grab bars and other products,” he says. “It could be an easy sell when people decide to spend money on what they need to make their homes more comfortable.” Ravinia has done five or six remodeling projects in each of the last two years. Before the recession, Ariano says, the company did six or seven times as many. “When the economy was good, our estimator would go to the customer’s house www.PMmag.com, April 2012 27 A tale of two showrooms The two contractors and their showrooms share some common elements. Both Ravinia Plumbing and Tom Drexler Plumbing are family-owned businesses. Each company generates about $6 million in annual sales, primarily from service. Tom Drexler founded his company 29 years ago. When he leased space for his business 10 years ago in a busy retail area, he had a showroom in mind but opened it just three years ago. The roots of Ravinia Plumbing go back to 1928 when Dave Ariano’s grandfather, Joe Ariano , founded Photo credit: Tom Drexler Plumbing and Bob Miodonski/Plumbing & Mechanical (Ravinia Plumbing photos) “The showroom certainly helps us control what we install and what we’re responsible for,” Ariano says. “We steer people toward products that hold up and ones that we can get repair parts for. We try to steer them away from products that may cause them trouble.” While the spaces occupied by the showrooms of both contractors are small, Drexler and Ariano say the benefits to their companies are significant.
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