The Wholesaler: December 2013 - Your Displays Tell a Lot: Here's What Others Say with Theirs

Posted by Bill Sattler on April 15, 2014 0 Comments

Your displays tell a lot: Here’s what some others say with theirs

Showroom specialist


So as the Holidays approach and the year draws to an end, I want to take this opportunity look back at what I have written about and suggestions I have made to you. Each month I express my opinion and give suggestions to the way I think you could be doing things. Do I have all the answers? No. Not even close. I only have my opinions, my experience and my love for our industry. I am still learning every day. As I write these articles each month, I do so in a bit of a bubble. With customers, for good or bad I always receive some sort of feedback. Writing these articles, I truly have no idea if anyone is reading them, enjoying them, or just filing them in a round file cabinet next to their desks.

Recently it was pointed out to me that I write about all the different things you should do in your showroom to improve your business but I have not really shown how I have implemented these ideas in my showroom. Sure I have cited certain situations, but they were correct — I really haven’t shown you how I apply what I write about in a real application. I take great pride in the fact that I write about not what I once did, but rather what I am currently doing . Like you, this is my life day in and day out.

So here are a few things I have done at Waterhouse Bath & Kitchen Studio. First, one person can make a huge difference but with a great team, you can make an impact. I want to point out that much of what I envision for Waterhouse would not be possible without having the outstandingly talented team that I do. I hope they don’t read this, as I would hate for it to go to their heads.

In a few articles I talked about merchandising and dressing or accessorizing your displays. I really believe it makes it so much easier for the average consumer to relate to a product if they can see what it would really look like in their own home. Finding the little things that can make a display more home-like can certainly be a full time job in itself. I spend much of my own personal time in and out of stores such as TJ Maxx and Target every week watching for the right item for the right display. It’s funny, as I do not think a week goes by that the staff is not asked by one of their customers if I would consider selling a certain item we have added to a display, be it a clock or a ceramic bulldog. I think that is a true testimony to what we are doing.

About two years ago, Kohler introduced their Tresham collection. As a Kohler Premier showroom, they were going to have us change out one of our original two “lifestyle suites” to accommodate the new Tresham collection. The display they selected to change was our Lexington lifestyle suite. The display is in our front window and has very high visibility to traffic and window shoppers. As you can see from the photograph, Lexington was a very masculine suite. It contained Kohler Kathryn fixtures in black set against a dark woodworking. The look was that of a stately Kentucky manor home. To update the display, Kohler wanted us to just swap out the Kathryn fixtures for the Tresham. In Kohler’s defense, I assume they had premier showrooms do this change without major renovations so showrooms would not incur the cost of remodeling the entire lifestyle suite. I personally didn’t like the idea because Kohler’s advertising and literature for Tresham was “Life. With a twist.” Just simply swapping the products did not represent what they were showing. They were featuring the products in a playful, modern, eclectic setting. I wanted our updated display to represent that look and be in line with the imagery Kohler was using in print and other media advertising. I contacted Kohler and asked if they would have an issue if I modified the display. They had no problem and knew I would not do anything not up to their standards. Left is a photo of Kohler’s Tresham imagery we used as inspiration and our finished Tresham display.

The display contains many eclectic elements as well as personal items of mine and of my teams. If you look closely you can see some photographs of some horses. They are actual photographs from when my family owned a harness racing track in Toledo. Some of the letters we have framed are actually personal letters sent by one of my staff’s grandparents back and fourth to each other. I love adding some sort of personal touch to any display. The horses are also a nod to the displays beginnings when it was Lexington. Then there are the little thing like the pick bow tie around the one sconce or the lions head door knocker I mounted to the side of the tub box to add personality.

In another issue, I mentioned events we held at our showroom. Well this year was Kohler’s 140th Birthday. We decided to throw a little event for the anniversary we titled the BOLD Birthday Bash. First with the invitations I wanted to have fun. Kohler has such great imagery I wanted to use it and have some fun with it. As you can see in the pictures on page 84, we used their current Moxie and VibrAcoustic advertising, as well as their Numi toilet, to create our invitation. My original idea was to have different stations throughout our showroom set up representing different decades from Kohler’s history.

Things do not always go the way you want and you just have to roll with it and modify the idea. What we did instead was recreate Kohler’s visual timeline here in the showroom. With help from our local rep and the historians at Kolher, we were able to gather photographs from the various eras throughout Kohler’s history. The staff staying with the birthday theme hung the items in order within the Kohler Premier space. Within the timeline was a series of questions. Guests could answer the multiple choice questions and all the correct ones were entered for prizes at the end of the night. We had great food and drinks inspired by Kohler’s home state of Wisconsin. Yes, as you would imagine, that included cheese. We also brought in a live DJ and photo booth to add an element of fun. It proved to be an outstanding event that was very well attended. All we asked of our customers was to come have fun. I would venture to say they learned a thing or two in the process but I have heard from more than one source to remember them for the next event – which is the whole idea. Build a fan following in whatever you do.

When we expanded our Duravit display I wanted to let consumers in our region know Duravit had come to Northwest Ohio. I always loved the campaign Duravit ran when they opened the Duravit showroom in New York City. They took a simple product like a Duravit Starck 2 Toilet and photographed it around New York. Well, essentially I borrowed (borrowed is a loosely used term) that idea and did the same thing around Northwest Ohio. We photographed the Starck 2 in various places including at 5/3 Field home of the world famous Toledo Mudhens and the Toledo Museum of Art. 

Last year Kohler introduced four new colors in a partnership with Jonathan Adler. I had seen a vertical display Kohler had created that displayed all the colors on the same sink. I loved it and tried to get one of the displays from Kohler. Well, when I got nowhere I decided to make our own but with an added touch. I had the graphic for the top of the display created but it needed something else. Kohler had a display at ICFF that was like an old fashioned theater marquee. They had “We Love Color” spelled-out in the old fashion light bulbs. I wanted to recreate that look in our vertical display. So since it was fall and Christmas lights were available I bought a set of mini LED Christmas tree lights, drilled the graphic I had mounted to the display where the words had simulated where they would have lights. Add a little electricity and I had our very own we love color display.

Then sometimes you just have to have some fun. Through our social media we make a big deal about different obscure holidays. One example is Star Wars Day held every May 4th. This year we had a little fun with Kohler VibrAcoustic Rocker Chic. We made her an honorary Jedi Knight. We name her Vibra-Wan-Acoustic. She is darn handy with a couple of light saber! In full disclosure, my staff would want me to point out they had nothing to do with this and that this one was all the managers doing. Oh, and May the 4th be with you all.

Adding these little touches to your showroom does not have to be expensive. We have a whirlpool display that has a group of four working whirlpools we affectingly call the quad. At one time we use to use granite tops for each tub. We had working out a partnership with a local granite supplier and they were able to display their products and we had a great look for our tubs. The issue we ran into in is that displays change. A model would be discontinued or a feature modified. So we would have to change the tub and in turn the stone. At that point we were always at the mercy of the granite supplier and more than a month could go by with an open space. I decided we needed a system that would allow us to change more quickly and yet have a great presentation. I came up with the idea of using river rocks. We would use standard MDF boards to set the tubs, paint them gray and surround them with the stone. It gave us a unique look and allowed us to make changes at a minimal cost. Here is a photo of our quad and what better way to end then to have it decorated appropriately for the holiday.

I look forward to bringing you more ideas next year. I hope you find these articles informative and entertaining. Please feel free to shoot me a message if there is a topic you would like to see me cover or even to say hi love your articles. If you hate them, well you don’t need to write.

Until next time have fun, have yourself a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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