You know it is time to develop new interests when you’re on vacation and spend your time visiting flooring showrooms after 55 years in the business. Knowing as much or more than anyone in the industry about showroom design and layout, and having designed dozens of showrooms across the nation that actually helped the sales process, I’ve found the average retail showroom has shown little or no improvement since my entrance into the industry.

I never had the opportunity to visit a manufacturer’s aligned dealership until recently. The neatest and best-designed showroom I visited was a Shaw aligned dealer.

What the groups and the manufacturer aligned dealers get is better-looking racks of the same design, which allow retailers freedom from the dog-ugly jumble of different racks from different suppliers. They also provide private labels and some proprietary products. The worst I visited was one from a major buying group, proving with all the advantages a dealer might have, if he works hard enough he can still have an ugly showroom.

What are the key elements of showrooms that sell? In this column, I can give you a broad but incomplete outline. More descriptive and detailed information is available in my book, “Warren Tyler on Retail,” which also gives staffing tips, tracking and follow-up programs, advertising that produces results and hundreds of other professional retailing skills.

Where did I become this expert? Certainly not the flooring industry. The professionals I followed in retail were Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. As a young retailer I copied their timing for advertising, how they advertised, display techniques, sales patterning and how to separate yourself from the crowd.

What do customers want? Being greeted in the proper manner sets the tone. In many stores, customers are virtually ignored. Nothing leaves a customer with a more empty feeling than being ignored. An enthusiastic “Welcome to ‘Warren’s Flooring,’” is guaranteed to bring a smile. Try it.

Then they want a highly educated sales staff member with whom they feel comfortable. Sales training has to focus on human skills. As an example, men should go to Bloomingdale’s and buy a suit from one of its commissioned female staff members.

Consumers want service that exceeds expectations. Commissioned salespeople, properly managed, offer the best service—by far. As much as possible, consumers want to be able to envision products as they are to be used. Customers want a neat, orderly store, which is symptomatic of a neat, orderly business and a warm, comfortable atmosphere.

Never allow manufacturer’s racks in your store. I found it was cheaper to build effective and attractive racks with the same finish. Again I refer you to my book.

Customers want large samples they can hold, feel and caress, not nasty little swatches stuck on cardboard. Your Top 10 qualities should be displayed in vignettes (mini room settings). When Sears was the largest carpet retailer in the world, it displayed just 28 qualities.

I never allowed any sample less than 27 by 54 inches on any of my sales floors. Books, deck boards and the like belong in a sample room off the floor. Qualities that stayed on the showroom floor were like members of an athletic team. If they didn’t perform they would be replaced.

We kept intricate records, so I knew day-to-day what my sales were in every quality and color. We didn’t display non-performing colors. Our main focus at markets was to view other manufacturers, improve our deal on current best sellers and negotiate for unrestrictive advertising money. If a mill wanted to sell us, it had to be willing to let us try the quality to see how it would perform. If it wasn’t willing to do this, we said “no”—a retailer’s most valuable word.

Display intelligently; allot the same amount of space for each category as their percentage of sales volume.

Stanley Marcus, my guru, once said, “It’s not how much you display, but how well you display.” This retailing genius also offered, “The more you display, the lower the price, [and] the lower the sales.”

This is why private labeling is a must. Why would you allow customers to take advantage of your superior service and knowledge and shop around? Also, never allow fluorescent lighting in your store. Incandescent lighting isn’t optional—it’s what consumers have in their home.

Display intelligently; allot the same amount of space for each category as their percentage of sales volume. For example, if wood accounts for 20% of your sales, that is the amount of showroom space to give it. If your store is larger—5,000 square feet or more—display a different showroom flooring for each category. The smaller the showroom, the fewer different display floors. A really small store requires you have only one type of flooring to enhance the size. Regardless, any display flooring should be a best-selling, high-profit residential quality.

Want more? Learn how to staff your store so you don’t have salespeople sitting around on Tuesday afternoon, yet don’t have enough people to take care of business on Saturday afternoon. Store traffic is up when shoppers aren’t working; down when they are. This means opening nights and Saturday all day. If you open Sunday, it will be your third most productive day.

Recognize there are proven consumer buying periods and save your promotional funds for these times. Never advertise when consumers aren’t buying.

Motivated employees are three to five times more productive, so motivate them. Read the “Awesome Power of Leadership” by Neil Pasricha. Learn how to hire elite employees and to give them the opportunity to thrive.