An island cooking area allows for you to offer cooking demonstrations in your showroom. Be sure to include such things as bar stools and fancy cooking oils as add ons to your regular assortment of products.

Installing working displays that include all the "extras" represent an effective way to draw potential clients into your showroom. The magnetism of working models that are also priced and packaged creates practically unlimited sales potential with the consumer.

You may be asking yourself, "What do working displays have to do with selling floor covering?" In a word, everything! Today, selling takes place in a very competitive environment. Consumers are time constrained and always searching for solutions to their problems. You are selling them floor coverings. But those floor covering may be going into a kitchen, a bathroom or any variety of other rooms in their homes. So while they are buying floor covering from you, they undoubtedly are considering other material selections for the rest of the room. The source who gives them solutions in a one-stop shopping environment usually wins the sale.

So how can you help? One suggestion I always offer is that every showroom, no matter what's being sold within it, should have a working kitchen. There are a variety of reasons why. I'll name just a few.

Be sure to choose a style of cabinet that is current in popularity. In this case the cabinets are the popular unfitted style of cabinets, with the furniture style legs and varied-height upper cabinets.
1. Kitchen sales represent the majority of vinyl sales for a floor covering dealer. Use this display to highlight a new, unique or sale product in your showroom. Network with a nearby kitchen distributor and obtain cabinets to make this an outstanding display in your showroom.

2. The kitchen can be used for food preparation for any open house function that you may have.

3. The kitchen can be used for special events. For instance, you may want to host a gourmet cooking class in your showroom as a public relations event.

4. The kitchen floor can be changed on a regular basis - perhaps twice a year - to display a particular product you want to highlight, making it a focal point in your showroom. This display can include any product category - vinyl, wood, ceramic, or laminate flooring.

Of course, you'll be decorating your displays in an effort to make them more realistic. Add dishes, mixers, small toasters, pots and pans, and decorative items such as potholders and decorative linens. Make the display look like a lived-in kitchen.

When choosing your accessories, select items that are unusual and not seen everywhere. One example might be the hardware you use on the cabinets. Select handmade or designer pulls and knobs - ones that can't be obtained at the local home center. The same goes for things like a tile backsplash. Find a local tile artisan who can create a custom backsplash for you. Doing so sets you apart from the common displays at the home center or even the tile store.

Try a design with open shelving and cabinets. This kitchen lends itself to easy updating -- just try a new color of paint!
Your pricing should include a markup for your store. Be sure to offer signage credits to any business that you engage to display products in your showroom. You might work out a reciprocal agreement and exchange products.

Price all displays and items in your showroom. When you go shopping, don't you expect to see the price of what you're browsing? The same principle should apply to your displays. Additionally, price a single display and list all of the items contained in it. Provide a listing of all the secondary items you sell so that customers can easily see them. Many times they don't realize you sell lighting, small appliances, bar stools, etc. Group the obvious items together - such as two, four or six bar stools - for a more concise presentation.

But don't stop there. Install ancillary products in your displays and make them work. Pedal-style faucets, water purification units as well as pot racks, decorative butcher-block island units and decorative lighting over the eating areas are good examples.

Be sure to price these items. You might even consider bundling these items for a single price, such as the faucet and water system, the island unit, and the pot rack and lighting fixtures. While your pricing may be more than what other competitors have given, the perceived value will be in the eye of the customer. And for your business, it's an add-on purchase that goes straight to the bottom line!

To make the displays even more realistic, integrate fake food and fill the cabinets with empty food boxes and cans. Open the cans you use at home from the bottom. This will allow these items to look more realistic on your shelves. You can find some good buys on dishes and glassware at flea markets. After all, you really don't need 12 place settings to trim a display!

Decorate your room settings as you would your home. Make them looked lived in, as though the occupants just stepped out for a while.
Fresh flowers are a nice touch, but be sure to delegate the watering to someone. It's not a nice touch to see a bunch of dead flowers and fallen petals in a display. If you work with your local florist, you might receive a discount if you credit the floral arrangements to the source. If budgets are tight, nice silk arrangements can be substituted.

But keep the arrangement at the front door live. That way, your customers will not be seeing the same arrangement for years to come. Occasionally move the silk arrangements to other displays, just as you change other items in the display to keep it looking fresh. (Refer to my May NFT column about updating your displays.)

Finally, another technique to consider is sending out letters or announcements to your clients telling them about all of the other products you have available to them. This marketing effort will increase traffic, improve business and draw additional customers to the showroom.

It's not enough to just offer products to sell anymore. Customer service is an expectation of the customer. By offering a unique blend of products, service and extras, you increase your visibility with shoppers and position your business as the place to shop for quality merchandise and expert assistance.