A Show-Stopping Showroom

Your showroom is the face of your business. Not carefully planning and creating a shopping environment that attracts customers and encourages purchases is like going to a business meeting without a fresh shave. You want to show that you are dedicated to the customer, and the products and services you provide, in the attention paid to the showroom. Make a showroom update part of your next business plan and implement they following tips in that plan's execution.

Create a comfortable environment

There are many things that play into creating an environment that is comfortable to shop in. A clean, well-lit store at a comfortable temperature (around 72 degrees) is a good place to start. Keep the smells of oils and gasoline as well as loud noise from the shop from interfering with the showroom experience.

Make sure that the stock in the showroom is proportionate to the space. You don’t want to cram too much into the space or have a bare area. This can leave customers over or underwhelmed.

Many studies have been done on how color can impact a retail environment. Create a color scheme based off of you branding for a professional, put-together look. Light colored walls are the perfect starting point that gives the illusion of more space. While many manufacturers offer product displays and signs, incorporating too many in the showroom can be too much. Sell yourself as a brand first, the manufacturer second.

Service and parts counter

The service and parts counter is often placed visibly in a direct line from the store's entrance. Depending on the distance from the front door, placement of the counter can get in the way of the flow of the remainder of the store. A good customer traffic pattern allows the customer to travel through the store and see all product lines on their way to the counter.

Set the counter toward the side or rear of the store. The Cracker Barrel restaurant is a good example of how this works. In order to get to the restaurant, patrons have to walk through the gift shop to be seated by a hostess. While some people might plow through with their hearts and stomachs set on a mountain of mashed potatoes, others will linger and make an impulse buy. There is also an opportunity to capitalize on this travel pattern on their way out of the dealership.

Displays and grouping

You are going to want to keep like products together (mowers with mowers). This adds to convenience for the customers who are shopping by product and not brand. They can easily compare different brands without walking all over the store.

Where you place a given product should relate to its margin. Give the higher margin products the best seat in the house so they are always seen first by the customer who walks through the store.

Displays should be fully stocked and organized. Make sure products and equipment are placed neatly in rows that are that are easy to navigate between. Many dealers are limited by the size of their showroom. Utilize different kinds of displays (wall fixtures, islands, end caps and counter displays) to take advantage of all that you have.

Smart signage

Good signage is clearly legible and should inform customers on products and services without requiring they make personal contact with a dealership associate. Include signage throughout the showroom that shows what value-added services you offer.

Use text accompanied by images to communicate your services in signage. A good way to put customers at ease with trusting in your shop to provide quality service is to display photos of technicians alongside any certification they have received. Tout mechanics as specialists and give them the representation they deserve.

Signs should also direct customers to each product category within the showroom. Products should be clearly labeled with price, product and warranty information. Clear and consistent signage on all products goes a long way in making the customer comfortable in the retail environment. It informs them and reduces the likelihood they will want to negotiate price with you.

There is a fine line between informing and overwhelming. You don’t want to crowd the store and customers' minds with signage. Try walking out and entering your store and looking at it from the mind of the customer. What grabs your attention first? The answer should be the equipment, not the signs.

Embrace the seasons

To make customers excited about visiting your store, change things up often. Create displays that correlate with the different tasks at hand that season. In the winter, gather some snow removal products like shovels and snow throwers and display them with bags of salt, hand warmers and artificial snow. You can also incorporate a mannequin in the mix, dressing it with the appropriate safety apparel required for the products displayed.

There are many holidays throughout the year that can bring some excitement to the showroom. Get creative and involve staff in decorating to build a little camaraderie. Just be sure that your festiveness doesn’t outshine the products on display.

Research and beyond

To get more ideas for your store, visit other independent dealers as well as big box stores. Check out how stores of varying sizes display their products and work with what space they have. As much as you may resent the big box stores, know that a lot of research has gone into their store layout and product presentation. Like gum at the register in the grocery store, place small fast-moving products like oil and near the register. You can also talk to customers about what they do and don’t enjoy about the environment you have created.

You may want to also consider hiring and expert for additional input and manpower. A consultant can help you decide which areas to focus on and help you develop a thorough plan for implementation. They may also have some vendor contacts to hook you up with.

If you don’t want to spring for a consultant, talk to industry associations or your various territory representatives for ideas. Industry forums may also provide some insight from other dealers looking to see and share what works. As long as you set aside at least some time for you showroom in the next year, you will be better off.