Al’s Column: Think of your showroom as your closet

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March 28/April 4, 2016; Volume 30, Number 20

By Suzanne Winn

To be successful in the floor covering retail business, it’s important to get the most out of your showroom floor. In short, that means taking a cold, hard look at your space and making tough decisions to determine which product categories are going to take center stage (on a product displayed per-square-foot basis).

Sounds easy, but it might take some soul searching. It can be a startling feeling to walk into your showroom one day and realize: “Oh my, I have 57 solid color cut piles.” (Insert hardwood, laminate or tile.) But you’re determined to figure it out, change things up and make every square foot count.

I realized how much my own showroom floor was pretty much like my closet. Yes, my closet. I had a ton of cute, viable things but over time they were tucked away out of sight because I had way too much stuff. Quite frankly, there were things I hadn’t looked at, touched or worn for well over a year.

So here’s the quick, down and dirty guide to breaking down your showroom floor as if it was a closet:

  1. Print out a sales report going back at least 12 to 16 months and sort by vendor, style and transaction amount.
  2. Go product by product on your showroom floor and round up the dollar amount and total number of transactions per product. (I’m old school so I actually use Post-it notes.) Put the dollar amount on the left side and mark the number of transactions on the right. I like to do this because it gives me a visual overview of what’s selling and what’s not, and specifically where products are placed on the showroom floor. In addition to temporarily placing the Post-it notes on the specific product, I also “grid” the showroom floor. Make a notation if a product is less than a year old as it’s too new to factor into the equation.
  3. Be sure to purge. Does anyone really need 12 black t-shirts that are basically the same? (I think you get my point.) Be prepared when you’re paring down products; your salespeople will attempt to convince you that the very lines you are about to dispose of are indispensable.
  4. Identify your “go-to” product in every category and find out what is selling and what isn’t. Make sure each product category is represented. (For example, 5-inch-wide hardwood could be the standard offering while the wider 7- and 8-inch products might be positioned as upgrades.)
  5. Look to emerging product categories and trends. (Some of the LVT/LVP products launched at Surfaces come to mind.)
  6. If your showroom is more commodity oriented then balance the scale in that direction. However, be careful to include some specialty items for customers looking for something more unusual. (The reverse is true for upper-end designer showrooms.)

If you find that it’s easier to simply add in new products than to thoughtfully make strategic decisions as to what’s selling on your floor with respect to hot trends in the market, then you know there could be a problem with your product mix. But by engaging in this exercise, you’ll find that the return on investment of your time and effort—whether it’s your showroom or your closet—will pay big dividends in the end. After all, who doesn’t want to buy from a savvy retailer with a well-appointed showroom?

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