Are Showrooms Worth It?

      Pros and cons of adding a showroom to your shop. April 10, 2005

Question
I'm in the process of updating my business plan for next year. Presently I'm in a small building with little room to expand. How should I evaluate the value of a showroom? I realize there's increased cost for personnel and overhead involved. Any input from those who have added showrooms would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Business Forum)
From contributor B:
Different strokes for different folks, but I don't really want a showroom. More overhead that I don't need. If I can get in somebody's house with my portfolio and they spend any time at my website, I can show them much more than I could with a showroom with limited space. Costs me very little, too. Having a display I could take to home shows is something I've thought about, but there are way too many things I'd want to show in a showroom to make it doable. Take your portfolio to them with a few sample doors and you're way ahead of 90% of the competition. Just my opinion!



From contributor T:
I have managed a few custom furniture showrooms, one 1500 sq.ft., one 4,000 sq. ft. and one 10,000 sq.ft. I find a showroom to have very desirable qualities. The most desirable is the ability to write a lot of orders without having to go anywhere. At one point the 10,000 sq.ft. showroom had six salesmen and was invoicing $300,000 per month. If you can not generate traffic, then the showroom will do you no good except stroke your ego and prestige. But it will surely save lots of gasoline and shoe leather if you can get the clients to come to you. On your own turf, you have all the samples and tools to make a solid impression that results in a solid order.


From contributor R:
When we built the new shop, we added a 900 sq ft office and showroom. All we had time to do was build a desk and some office cabinets along a wall. The show kitchen we were going to build hasn't happened, but our business has doubled over the last year. I would still like to put the show kitchen in someday, but I do not see it as a necessity to receive more business. Our business is built on referrals and so most people that walk through the door are already sold on our cabinets. I have found all that I need to sell a cold call builder is a sample door with an excellent finish on it and a commitment to customer service.


From contributor D:
My building is 6000 sq ft. 5000 of that is shop area and 1000 is a combination showroom/office/design area. In this area I have 3 small, but almost complete, kitchens. I sell Rev-a-Shelf (and like to), so there's a lot of that in there. I don't like building face frames, so there's not much of that in there. I have knob and pull displays, laminate displays, my reception desk is a display, the office part has cabinets (more display), 2 other desks built (more displays), a very nice restroom (more display), 26 door styles, pictures of our work everywhere, a small entertainment center with a very small TV and VCR.

We have several cartoon VCR tapes. If a customer has a rowdy child, we pop in a video and set the volume very low. If the child wants to hear it, they must be quiet (this works). Momma is happy, the kid is happy and I'm happy.

We have a model of a sink valance, which makes a lot of difference. On our three kitchens, we have one laminate, one solid surface, one granite. Our computers are set up with Cabinet Vision. We can design for the customer right before their eyes. All around them they see our quality. Cabinet Vision pictures are nice, pictures of actual work are very nice, but to see and be able to touch is great as far as the customer's perception is concerned. I think a showroom is an invaluable tool to my business. I am considering increasing the size of mine in the future. We do go out to the job and measure if the customer wants and is willing to pay for it, but all sales are made in the showroom/office. We don't charge a design fee, but we don't give the customer the design unless they buy from us. If they really must have a copy of the design in advance, the fee is 300 for measured drawings.



From contributor C:
I worked at a cabinet shop where the showroom was actually a separate company. We built them the display cabinets for a fee, and they referred us customers at a fee. Of course, now the showroom is out of business, and the cabinet shop is bigger and busier than ever.


The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor J:
I have been in the business for a long time without a showroom. I made a living but never got rich. I would bring my door samples with the wood species and colors available to the customersí home. Now that I do have a showroom I just canít keep up with all the work. I have more business than I can handle and actually have to turn down work.

I win nearly all my bids now. I believe having that showroom gives the customer confidence in the contractor when they have a brick and mortar building rather then seemingly working from the back of their truck with door samples. For my investment, my business volume has more then doubled. We are looking for another store to open right now. The key though is you cannot open a store hidden in the back of an industrial warehouse. We have top visibility on a very busy corner. The rent is more but it pays off well.



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