Volume 50, Issue 9 - September 2015

Shower Power
Selling Shower Doors and
Enclosures in the Showroom
by Nick St. Denis

The showrooms of glass shops that offer shower doors are most likely dominated by enclosures—even if that product line doesn’t necessarily represent the bulk of the shop’s sales.

Unlike storefront systems, shower enclosures can be displayed in a showroom easily, with multiple options and in full glory. This helps customers envision and understand how the product can work for them.

USGlass spoke to a few glass shop owners to find out what the best practices are to get the most out of the showroom—and ultimately sell more shower doors.

Multiple shower door options in a showroom can be a big selling point for glass shops.

Some companies advise organizing their showrooms by product type such as framed, semi-frameless and frameless.

Instill Confidence

Upon walking through the door, before the customer even utters the term “shower door,” they should already feel comfortable with their inevitable purchase.

“Give the customer confidence.”

That’s William Godshall’s approach with his showroom at Columbia, S.C.-based Columbia Shelving and Mirror, which he says is regularly remodeled and features well-kept landscaping.

“I built the building that we’re in now in 2001 with the vision of a place where someone would feel comfortable about spending money,” says Godshall. That includes features his shop doesn’t actually sell, apparently.

To bolster the eye candy aspect of the showroom, he recently had an interior decorator come in for a remodel and had the latest tile installed. This resulted in one customer asking if they could buy tile from him.

“We don’t sell tile,” Godshall told the customer. “But I can refer you to where I got it.”

Confidence. A customer confident in their environment will be confident with their purchase. Then you can sell them a shower enclosure—and leave the tile to someone else.

The Great Divide

There’s no right or wrong way to arrange a showroom, as long as the arrangement is effective.
But the typical progression of arrangement most showrooms seem to go for is by type—in order of framed, semi-frameless and frameless.

“We mix all the different companies together,” says Joe Mowers of Pittsburgh-based Rex Glass, which deals with a wide range of vendors. “We don’t have a Cardinal section here or a Splendor section there. That serves the vendors, but that doesn’t necessarily serve the customers.”

Some shops even highlight products they don’t sell, like tile, because it gives customers an idea of what it might look like installed.
Keep it Clean

Clark Robinson of Robinson Glass in Tulsa, Okla., says an important aspect of the showroom, and one that needs to be kept up with, is cleanliness.

His business has the janitorial crew do a weekly spot check to make sure there are no marks or handprints on the products. And once a month, the enclosures go through a top-down cleaning.

“And obviously our guys know that if they notice something on the showroom floor—if a kid leaves a big hand print or something—to take care of it right away,” he says.

Columbia Shelving and Mirror in Columbia, S.C., has a cleaning service come through once a week. Columbia’s William Godshall says due to fingerprints, they clean the shower door displays “all the time.”

“We make sure to clean enclosures regularly,” adds Joe Mowers of Rex Glass in Pittsburgh. “... People don’t usually want to look at fingerprints on the glass.”

Ask Questions

When a customer walks in the door looking for the perfect shower enclosure, they’ll undoubtedly have plenty of questions. And so should you.

What kind of opening are we working with? Do you have a picture on your phone? Is there a particular style you’ve already looked into?

“Ask general questions,” says Clark Robinson of Robinson Glass in Tulsa, Okla. “Do they want a traditional framed door? Are they interested in frameless? If someone has no idea what they want, you can start by showing them the different types and talking in general price points.”

Knowing right away whether a certain functionality will or won’t work in the space—for example, the way a door swings—can help narrow things down efficiently for a customer. It can also alleviate the sting of future disappointment for a customer who may not be able to get the style they sought when they walked in.

“Sometimes that can be the hardest thing to tell a customer,” says Joe Mowers of Rex Glass & Mirror in Pittsburgh. “That what they had their heart set on just may not be feasible.”
Back(paint) in Business

While shower doors are a main component of a glass shop’s showroom, the consumer-oriented space gives the business an opportunity to highlight its other product offerings.

If a customer is in remodel mode and looking at a new shower enclosure, they may be inclined to explore other options in their home—and having an attention-drawing product like backpainted glass on display can’t hurt.

Manassas, Va.-based Dulles Glass & Mirror, for example, has backpainted glass on the wall display in its Silver Spring, Md., showroom.

“It makes quite a statement and does draw positive attention from our showroom customers,” says Nancy DeZarn of Dulles Glass. She says her company sells “a fair amount” of backpainted glass but continues to look at ways to grow that portion of the business. Dulles Glass currently has just a small display of the product in the showroom but is considering adding more in the future. The business mainly utilizes installation photos to provide inspiration for their customers.

The main applications in which Dulles’ customers utilize backpainted glass are in the kitchen. “It works well with modern cabinetry and complements a contemporary décor,” says DeZarn. “We have also had customers use backpainted glass in the bathroom.”

Other areas include small businesses using it in lounge spaces, kitchenettes and cafeterias. “Unique installations can even include countertops if the customer wants it,” she adds. “Several popular home goods stores have popularized the look, and people want to duplicate that look.”

Inspire Ideas

Mowers says the key to getting the lightbulb to turn on in a customer’s head is relatively straightforward: “It’s all about variety.”

“Sometimes customers know what they want,” he says. “But sometimes they know what they don’t want once they see it. The more you can show them, the better they can find what exactly it is they’re looking for.”

Godshall says he’s created what he calls an “idea center” in his showroom.

As an example his showroom features a high-end, high-dollar Roda by Basco shower door. The price tag of the luxury shower enclosure is an obvious deterrent for most buyers. However, it provides perspective to a range of options available to the consumer. “It gives people an idea that you can go from this, all the way to this,” he says.

Robinson takes a similar approach with one of his full-sized displays, a high-end Alumax Pipeline, which he says is “beautiful” but comes with a hefty price tag. He doesn’t sell many of those, but is he thinking of taking it down?

Not a chance.

Instead, Robinson uses the setup as an example of what a high-end product looks like. This way, when he shows the customer a similar looking product in a more modest price range, they can compare.

Leverage your Resources

C.R. Laurence director of marketing Andrew Haring says his company, as most good vendors should, “sees the value in showrooms,” and offers additional tools to help customers grow and enhance theirs.

Haring encourages businesses to “leverage all resources available,” whether it be discount pricing on hardware to be used as displays, decorative showroom posters showcasing installed systems, shower door tri-fold brochures and promotional giveaways.

Provide Education

Knowledge is power—for both the seller and the buyer.

New designs, developments and technologies continue to push the envelope in the products available to consumers. While most of the salespeople with whom USGlass spoke for this story are industry veterans, each stresses the importance of having a well-informed staff.

“You have to keep on top of it,” Mowers says regarding the sales team staying educated on the products. “For example, we held a specific meeting when the headless slider [door] came out to make sure everyone knew how it works, what kind of finishes you can choose from, etc.”

Sales meetings are crucial, as is information literature. Whether on a weekly or monthly basis, the sales team must know the products inside and out—configurations, what works best with one kind of hardware versus another, etc.

Then, they can pass that knowledge along to the customer and help them truly understand everything they need to know about shower doors.

“By the time they leave here, most people don’t have a need for a brochure,” says Godshall. “When they leave here, they’ve spent 30 minutes with us and have been presented with everything.”

Utilize the Web

Things aren’t the way they used to be.

Not only are there more products and customizable options than ever before, but the customer is now generally much more knowledgeable on the subject prior to their inquiry. One big reason for that is the Internet, which successful glass shops utilize to promote their shower door lines and services.

Rex Glass, for example, is growing the online portion of its business. “This year, we’ve been spending a lot of money to totally redesign our website,” says Mowers. “We want to be modern and accessible for people.”

The company had a Google business photographer come in to take 360 images, which will allow the company to provide an online virtual tour of the showroom. This way, before a customer even walks in, they already have one foot in the door.

Other companies such as Dulles Glass & Mirror in Manassas, Va., take the Internet seriously.

Dulles allows customers to customize different shower doors right on its website, making all of the options for each particular product and configuration available to browse. The site also features informational videos, as well as Glass 101 and Hardware 101 frequently asked questions resources.

“We do have people making inquiries and such through our website,” adds Robinson of his business. “But we don’t use it as an e-commerce site. It’s more of an informational site.”

the author
Nick St. Denis is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine. He can be reached at nstdenis@glass.com.

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