Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2003
Delivering the Moon
by Tom Sulock
While serving as president of the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association (BEMA) in 2002, I was able to see the industry through different eyes. What I saw was enough to make a grown man proud. The shower door industry is changing, redefining and learning to have attitude.
A Changing Industry
In the past, shower doors were always the “redheaded stepchild” in the glazing world. Real glaziers didn’t want anything to do with shower door installations. It was beneath them. They didn’t want Mrs. Jones standing there watching them to make sure they didn’t scuff the tile or dirty the carpet on the way in or out. They wanted to work on commercial storefronts and not have the pressure of installing a residential product.
That forced glass shop owners to hire and train a group of residential specialists that have exceeded our every expectation. We are seeing shower doors installed that can stop one in their tracks. From 3/8-inch or ½-inch thick glass to your basic tub or shower enclosure, we see our products installed better than ever. Silicone performs better, our materials are passing higher standards and the customers are ending up with a product they love.
When we look back on the industry and where we came from, how can we not get misty-eyed? Wired glass, all-framed doors, silver and gold only—those used to be our main options. Now we’re forced to have several metal colors available, numerous glass options and a variety of hardware choices. You name it and we get asked for it every day. People today are not afraid to ask for the moon and are willing to pay for it. If I were in the shower curtain business, I’d be worried. Those days are gone. So, what are you doing to ready yourself for this (sometimes) highly specialized field?
Value of a Showroom
Let me give you some advice that will cost you in the beginning but will pay off fast. One word—SHOWROOM! Yes, your biggest earner right now could be your showroom. With all the industry has to offer, homeowners are flocking to places where they can touch, feel and see all the options. Having a showroom that represents all the differences can make you a destination for remodelers and homeowners. And, if done right, a showroom can be relatively inexpensive. After the framing work (if needed) is done, you can usually find local tile and marble professionals who will pretty up your showroom for little to nothing as long as you pass on their business card to your showroom visitors. Your biggest investment could be the floor space.
In the Northwest alone, there are several businesses that I know of that have invested big money into showrooms that are palatial. Home Depot has the “Expo” design centers and Lowe’s has spared no expense in the bath section of their stores. We need to follow their lead. These are people that have statistics to back up their reasoning. When they make an investment like that they know what the return will be.
Attitude? Yes we have it, but with good reason. We are offering a product that has emotional value to people. The money spent on today’s bathroom is second only behind the kitchen (see charts page 41 to find out how much homeowners are paying for a bathroom remodel). People come to us to be the experts on enclosures. If you have the showroom, expert installers and a product line you believe in, you are ready to go. Don’t skimp on any of the above. Your showroom and installers will make you profit and enhance your main asset—your reputation. Be a destination when people are looking for the place to go for enclosures. It’s OK to be proud, be the best, and most of all, have attitude.
Tom Sulock is the president of the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association and the Pacific Northwest sales manager for Agalite Shower Doors in Seattle.
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