Kitchen & Bath Design News

APR 2016

Kitchen & Bath Design News is the industry's leading business, design and product resource for the kitchen and bath trade.

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OVER THE YEARS, I've consulted with many kitchen and bath frm owners about their showroom locations and designs. In the 1990s, especially, when the overall business climate was so strong, many business owners looked at their location as a way to help control the clientele they served. Many chose to locate their frms in intentionally out-of-the-way places – i.e., "destination locations." Meaning: "If you want to shop for our products, you'll need to fnd out exactly where we are and make a spe- cial trip here, rather than simply happen upon our store in a high-trafc retail area." Some owners during those years chose to locate in industrial parks or on sites set well back from the road. They may even have set up a showroom behind a line of other fashier storefronts, where they were obscured from plain view. But while owners of kitchen and bath frms could once aford to locate their showrooms well of the beaten path to take advantage of large spaces and low rents, today, consum- ers' new needs and expectations may call for these owners to rethink their 'out-of-the-way' showrooms. LOW-KEY LOCALES In years past, many businesses wanted to limit interruptions from what we call "Looky Lous." Car dealers use the term "tire kickers." These are people who shop as a recreational activity. They may or may not buy – and more often than not, they say they're "just looking." Indeed, for years, the choice of a low-key location actually made good business sense. In fush years, many a kitchen and bath store could aford to hide out a bit, in a large yet afordable showroom. Sales were that healthy – and being more selective about foot trafc let the staf focus on efectively serving the shoppers most likely to be their best customers. Kitchen and bath frm owners had other good reasons for choosing out-of-the-way loca- tions as well: • One was to save on rent. Of-the- beaten-path facilities typically come at a much lower cost per square foot. • In other cases, owners set out to get much more showroom space for about the same or less rental expense than they would pay in a prime street-front location with higher visibility. A larger site could allow for long-term business growth, while providing ample room for shipping, deliveries and warehousing. • Many shoppers at the time appreciated the large showrooms. They could see all options available to them and visualize specifc products in their homes. Even more important, they could fnd their way to their own styles through the numerous kitchen and bath arrangements expansive- ly displayed across the generous space. • Some owned not just their businesses, but their buildings, too, and they believed it was best to stay put in the places they had invested so much in over the years. It could be that, with today's improving economy, this out-of-the-way strategy may again make sense for your showroom's loca- tion. Yet we must be careful to learn from our recent past. I'm referring, of course, to the Great Recession. It wasn't so long ago that the home building industry practically ground to a halt. With so few new homes going up, showroom trafc from builders and con- tractors largely dried up. And while some homeowners remained confdent enough of their fnances to consider remodeling, the inconvenient locations of many kitchen and bath stores could too often make it a case of "out of sight, out of mind." There wasn't that regular reminder from driving by the store each day to keep sparking the homeowner's interest. So the traditional wisdom of choosing an out-of-the-way location quickly came into question. Sometimes it takes a big jolt like this to reassess the competitive landscape. When foot trafc slowed, kitchen and bath design- ers had time to take stock. Many found a changed marketplace. Customers' expec- tations for the showroom experience had rapidly evolved. Today, many remotely located showrooms are not only out of the way, they're out of date. They may now be where little home remodel- ing is actually happening, because the area's housing markets have shifted in value. OUTDATED SPACES These showrooms may also be stylistically be- hind the times. Many showroom designs have not been reconsidered, from the master plan perspective, for fve, 10, 15, or even 20 years or more. The updates they need may be difcult, or even daunting, to undertake. There are so many fxed walls to deal with. For today and tomorrow, I see the need for the smart kitchen and bath design frms to have a showroom with an open, fexible foor plan. Homeowners now have many Web-based tools for conducting basic product research. When they actually come into your showroom, they may be looking for more than just infor- mation – they may want edu-entertainment. Then, as you hold more and more in-store events, you can become known and valued by your showroom shoppers as a true home improvement resource. It hurts to say this, but many of our current showrooms are not located and designed for the consumer of today, let alone tomorrow. Many showrooms had become frozen in layout and appearance during the down economy. Others evolved only slowly. This must change if we are to successfully sustain our businesses. We must stay aware of market shifts and understand how they impact the showroom. An entirely new gen- eration is entering the life stage in which they will become frequent buyers for the home. We will not want to miss this opportunity. We will need to know our new markets' shopping preferences and adapt our showroom loca- tions and layouts to match. " While owners of kitchen and bath frms could once aford to locate their showrooms well of the beaten path to take advantage of large spaces and low rents, today, consumers' new needs and expectations may call for these owners to rethink their 'out-of-the-way' showrooms." Read past columns and features and send us your comments about this article and others at Rethinking Out-of-the-Way Showrooms SARAH REEP, CMKBD, ASID, CMG, CAPS, IIDA 18 Kitchen & Bath Design News • April 2016 INSIDE TODAY'S SHOWROOM

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