Volume 15, Issue 4 - July/August 2011


Showroom Showdown
Whether Considering a New or Remodeled One, Experts Share Their Showroom Design Secrets
by Katie Hodge

First impressions can tell you a lot about a business. Interactions with employees as well as references from other customers can make or break the decision of which business to hire. Customers also can tell a lot from walking into a business and observing their surroundings. For many window film shops trying to make a good first impression with their shop has become very important. Many have opened showroom locations just for consumers or have re-done their shop to include a lobby area that shows off its best work.

Why Re-Design?
During more difficult economic times some shops may have opted to forgo developing or renovating its shop/showroom. However, these shops could be missing a great revenue builder. For businesses like Jarett Hulett’s in Columbus, Ohio adding a showroom as part of his business operation has provided legitimacy and convenience.

“We wanted a place where people could come and see the film applied to glass because it’s cheaper for us to have people come to us. Sometimes it is more convenient for a customer to have the choice—come to us or have us go to them,” says Hulett, the president of Solartex Inc. “Plus, there is just a legitimacy factor to having a showroom. It’s something our competitors don’t have. We figure if we have business space we might as well operate a showroom.”

“[The showroom] helps me sell and it gives me credibility,” agrees Ray Levy, owner of Sunbelt Window films in Houston, Texas.

“It tells the design industry, architects and builders that window film isn’t that purple bubbly stuff that you used to see on cars.”

For others, they wanted their customers to feel comfortable and as if they were in a retail store when they arrive.

“It makes a difference when a customer walks in to a spotless shop that’s clean and looks like a retail store, rather than walking into what feels like a warehouse,” says Mike Covin, owner of Mike’s Tint Shop in Orange, Calif. “Customers feel more comfortable.”

Image Innovation
Once the space has been found and the decision has been made to create a showroom there are a variety of different design directions for showrooms. For automotive shops the design tends to be edgier than it is for architectural shops.

“We just moved in to a larger building so when we moved in we had a blank canvas and it needed a lot of work. We did things like putting crown moulding in,” says Covin. “I normally design all my showrooms with a bit of diamond plate to give it an edgier look. When we moved into our brand new building I wanted to do something a bit different to give it a classier look. What we did was put black slat board on the walls with a nice frame around it and it matches the counter.”

On the walls, Covin has hung posters, samples, shelves and more. He has maximized his wall space by making his walls like floor space. Covin has also made use of some structural features of the building, like windows and extra space for a waiting area.

“We even have a waiting area that we call our lounge with big velvet couches and plasma television,” says Covin. “On one side we have eight little windows and we display our decorative films there.”

Architectural shops make use of their space too. Hulett’s showroom displays materials across the wall on a version of a slat board. He has samples and educational information neatly displayed on the slat board and across the room he has displayed glass with film applied to it for potential customers to examine firsthand. Hulett has more plans for continuous showroom improvement.

“We haven’t done as much as we’d like to. The main draw is to have film applied to glass so the customer can touch and feel what it is going to look like,” says Hulett.

Levy also has designed his showroom to feature some film-on-glass samples. Upon obtaining the space, which he shares with a drapery and a home theater business, Levy had to gut it and completely redo the showroom space.

“My challenge became how to make window film look sexy,” says Levy. “First I thought I would just hang some windows and put some film on, but the problem is that the film looks the same on both sides of the glass because of the lighting. Designers come through here all the time and I need to make it look good.”

Levy ultimately built in a new section of the room that included four windows and a door with glass panels to show samples of what the film would look like.

“What I did was build a fake wall about 18 inches away from the other wall and on that I put five different windows,” explains Levy. “On one window I have a view of a mountain so you can see how the glare is reduced. On another I show protection from fading have a clear film with the circle fading chart. I also have one for security/safety and I have a branch going through the window and a hurricane picture in the background. The fourth one shows graphics and I have about 28 samples of graphic films. They can look and see which one they like, from very private to semi-private. The last one is a door with eight panels like a French door with eight samples of the graphic films.”

In addition to the custom wall, Levy also includes in his showroom proof of the quality of work that he does.

“I have two collages of homes that I’ve done over the past 30 years with testimonials from the designers and architects,” says Levy.

Levy’s showroom also features a heat demo with a rotating heat lamp.

Wish List
Even with a finished showroom many shops strive to constantly update and keep their showroom

“I’d like to have more pictures, blown-up pictures of things we have done and pictures of specific films and how it looks on a house or a building, both inside and out,” says Hulett. “That way you can show them what it will look like based on work we have done with a specific film.”

Others are interested in adding better or larger versions of features already included in their showroom.

“I do want to add a better example of the different shades of film,” says Covin. “I have a desktop one, but I’d like to do a bigger one on the wall so they can see exactly what it would look like.”

Whether the space is completely finished or a work in progress there are benefits to maintaining a showroom.

“I think it’s definitely improved our business. The legitimacy factor is huge,” says Hulett. “Most of the time we still go out to the customer’s house because it is more convenient for them, but just having that option I think has definitely improved our business. Probably 10-15 percent of our clients are people that ended up coming into the showroom.”


Location, Location, Location
Finding the perfect place to house your showroom is not as daunting as it may seem.

Many shops choose to use space they already have. Using a front lobby or an un-used room/office can cost a shop very little, while still providing that professional feel that puts customers at ease. Using slat board and hanging samples is an easy way to turn a plain lobby into an information center.

For a shop looking for a completely separate location to house their showroom talking to other local businesses can pay off. By working together with other businesses you can cut the cost in half and share the space. Taking into account where the showroom will be located in comparison to where the customers will be driving from is important. Most customers want the most information and assistance with the least amount of interruption to their day. Situating a showroom closest to the majority of customers is also ideal.

Visit other showrooms as a “potential customer” and see what they have done to make their space work for them.


Showroom Features
There is a wide variety of choices when it comes to add-on’s for a showroom. Some of the most popular features are:
• Photos of completed projects;
• Customer Testimonials;
• Film samples (on and off glass);
• Brochures;
• Posters of projects and film types;
• Slat board for hanging things on the wall;
• Film on the windows of the showroom;
• Demonstration areas (heat, noise and security);
• Heat rejection and glare tutorials, posters and brochures;
• Comfortable chairs and counter or table space; and
• Anything to help customer better understand benefits and value of window film.

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