Large retailers put thought and planning into designing their showrooms. Why? Because it sells. Everyone wants a beautiful showroom, but that is not the only element of showroom design. Large retailers hire behavioral experts who are crucial to planning showrooms. People are fairly predictable and can be led through a showroom in an efficient manner. Unfortunately, many flooring retailers give little thought to their showrooms as to how they can help sell. A rep talks them into a display and when it comes in, “Put it there!” seems to be the modus operandi. The best retail merchandising groups at least give their members consistent displays, but often provide little to no help in display planning that will help retailers sell.

So where does a retailer get this knowledge? I do not know of any professional showroom designers within our industry, nor any from the outside, who specialize in flooring retail. But there is no need to hire decorators or behavioral experts, since there are some ABCs of “Showrooms that Sell!”

On the Outside

Good showroom design starts on the outside. Travelling by most flooring showrooms, I’m inspired to keep going rather than being invited in. Take a good look at your own building. Is it attractive, in excellent repair, with great signage? Are you located in a safe neighborhood? Are the windows spotless? If you have a parking lot, is it well-lit? Are the best parking spaces reserved for customers with employee spaces off to the side? The biggest turnoff is having a “Reserved for Mr. Owner” sign close to the entrance; this act says that the people in this store care less about the customer.

Someone once said, “Store windows are like eyes allowing people to look into the soul.” The average window in a flooring store shows the back of ugly manufacturer’s racks. How inviting! Your windows should be a beautiful sample of the wonders within. Whenever I wander through a shopping center, I notice store windows and sometimes find a spectacular display. If this happens to you, ask who designed the windows. Many times it is a talented employee who would jump at the chance to earn a little extra money.

First Impressions

It is critical that every customer be warmly greeted—welcomed into the store. Forget the “May I help you?” or the equally inane “May I lead you to something?” They want to buy, but they are not ready to be sold.

Another wise person said about customers, “You want to sell and she wants to buy, how is it possible to not sell her?” (Oh wait, maybe that was me!) A warm greeting will almost always elicit a smile and a thank you from a customer. What better way to start?

So it’s important to have the sales area close to the entrance in order to greet every customer, but how close? The test is easy. Get a big box or something like it and put it near the entrance. Too close and it’s intimidating, too far away and the greeting suffers. You will find a comfortable distance.

Place the sales area to the left as you enter. Why? Because most people tend to turn toward the right if allowed. Being left-handed was an advantage when attending big conventions, because the food was usually offered on both sides of the room. To the right, it was crowded with right-handers while the left was virtually empty. So the “hot” spot on your floor is 20 feet in to the right. This is where your sales display or your most popular high-profit item should be placed.

The ABCs are easy. For the most part creating showrooms that sell is only common sense.

The Inside Counts

Nothing is more off putting than a jumble of ugly manufacturers racks. Display racks have to be consistently designed. I found I could build racks that did a better job of displaying product for a fraction of the price. Additionally, I showed the largest samples I could get, which typical racks don’t accommodate. My book, Warren Tyler on Retail, explains showroom design more fully and gives you instructions on building terrific displays cheaply.

This next item is valuable. Customers want to see flooring as it is to be used in their home. Photos help, but displays are better. Take your top 10 most profitable items (more if there is room) and make a vignette or slice of real life. Retailer’s walls are usually a waste, so make a simple frame with platform and cover the display with the product you want to show. Accessorize with a piece of furniture, name the quality on the wall and it’s done. Instructions are in my book. No matter how well-done your floor displays are, customers will pass them and make a beeline for your vignettes. Manufacturers would give me materials and samples if I would put them on my vignettes, so it benefits you in buying and selling.

Of course the floors are also important. Don’t use the ugly cheap commercial flooring, but the best selling floors of each type. If you have a small showroom of 1,000 feet or less, use only one product. The larger the showroom, the more different floors you can display in the sample area. If a product is discontinued, replace the floor. (Actually, I never wanted a customer to see the same things twice when they came into the store.)

Use incandescent lighting. Nothing will make a showroom more beautiful. No deckboards ever. There are many issues, but neatness is crucial.

Finally, samples had to earn their way on my floor. We kept meticulous sales records. If they didn’t sell, they were banished.

Stanley Marcus, my retail guru says, “The more you sample, the lesser the price, the lower the sales.” Extra samples belong in the backroom if you need them. It’s never how much you show, it’s how well you display it.