Transforming the showroom

Well-designed spaces provide important sales opportunities
Katy Devlin
February 1, 2013
RETAIL : PROJECTS

La Cantina Doors designed its new showroom to echo the openness its products provide. Above, doors are displayed on a rich wood-deck-like riser, in various sizes, configurations, materials and finishes to show the company’s product range.

Much more than a venue to display products, the showroom is a representation of a company’s brand, giving visitors an indication of the product and service quality they can expect from the business. A well designed showroom allows customers to interact with products and imagine how they could fit into their own home or workspace: an experience that is critical to the sales process, industry executives say.

la cantina
View a photo gallery of the La Cantina Doors showroom

“We want to get people in the showroom to see the products and possibilities for themselves,” says Lee Maughan, general manager of La Cantina Doors. The company recently opened a 67,000-square-foot location in Oceanside, Calif., that includes a sleek and modern showroom. “The showroom is designed to give [visitors] a feel for the various products as they would appear in a real-life application,” he explains.

“Our showroom provides a better understanding of how our products enhance your lifestyle. The showroom is a reflection of our brand and our point of view,” adds Benjamin Woo, marketing director. “It gives us the chance to get our folding door systems in front of our customers. … It gives our customers the opportunity to see the quality of our product, to appreciate the design aesthetics and engineering, to operate our folding door systems and to experience the indoor/outdoor open spaces that our products provide.”

solvay
View a photo gallery of the Solvay Glass showroom

Across the country, Solvay Glass is similarly focused on the customer experience at its remodeled showroom in Syracuse, N.Y. The company specializes in residential glass, such as custom shower doors and mirrors, and remodeling products, such as Renewal by Andersen Windows and Doors, and Alligator Sunrooms and Basements.

“What’s important is how the showroom looks, smells, the music you have playing,” says Lisa Stratton, sales and marketing director. “It’s all about the sense, particularly touch. I see almost all of our customers touching the displays.”

An open feel

In October 2012, LaCantina Doors celebrated the grand opening of its new showroom and expansive lean manufacturing plant in Oceanside, Calif. The manufacturer of large sliding and folding door systems grew out of its previous 20,000-square-foot facility in Vista, Calif., where it did not have a showroom.

“We did not have a showroom per se in our previous location due to space limitations. We did have two systems on display,” Woo says. “We definitely wanted to have a dedicated space [at the new location] for the showroom, in order to display a comprehensive range of our folding door systems.”

La Cantina Doors designed its new showroom to echo the openness its products provide. Visitors enter into a large, open space that features tall ceilings, exposed duct work, a spacious waiting area, the “Learn Bar”, and the showroom’s focal point: the product displays. Doors are displayed on a rich wood-deck-like riser, in various sizes, configurations, materials and finishes to show the company’s product range. Visitors are able to walk through the displays without ever feeling cut off from the rest of the showroom.

“We wanted to create a natural flow from product to product for our displays,” Woo says. “We wanted the overall feel to be casually refined, yet inviting.”

The second key element of the showroom is the Learn Bar educational center. “The showroom is meant to serve as a resource, from architect lunch and learns, to product knowledge training, to dealer/client consults, to showcasing new products in development,” Woo says. The Learn Bar, a room-length wooden table, provides a sit-down meeting area for designers and other potential customers who visit. The space also features “a 60-inch [television] monitor that allows the customer to view our web site, images, videos, product details, options and specifications, in order to build their folding door system,” Woo says.

The company worked with Stephen Adams, principal design partner of Adams Design Associates Inc., to develop the showroom design.

“The customer response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Woo says, citing two examples. “The [American Institute of Architects] Palomar-San Diego Chapter recently held their monthly member meeting at our showroom. And, one of the dealers in attendance at our open house brought in two new potential clients to our showroom for the consult.”

A positive experience

While Solvay Glass had a large space for its previous showroom, “it was sterile. We’ve given it life with the remodel,” Stratton says. “One big goal of remodeling the existing showroom was to shape the Solvay Glass experience. Whether a customer is coming in to get a piece of glass cut or getting a full sunroom, they will be greeted by someone who is happy to be at work and will lead them to the product they want to look at. We want them to have a good, pleasant experience.”

The old showroom conflicted with the company’s brand, she says. Solvay Glass offers home remodeling solutions that demonstrate that the “finest is affordable;” however, the retailer’s existing showroom did not express that sentiment. “It was tired—it was somewhere out of the ‘60s. We realized that, if we were going to be inviting people into the showroom, we needed to make an adjustment. We needed a total facelift,” she explains.

The Solvay showroom touts an open design, intended to feature each of its business segments under clearly marked signage. The previous showroom did not flow, Stratton says. “When people walked in, they didn’t know which way to go. We addressed that with the redesign and revamped the whole reception area,” she says.

The company handled the design and construction in house. “We have our own master craftsmen on staff,” Stratton says. “Our bath division set up the enclosures in the bath section; our sunroom installer installed a complete sunroom in the showroom.” A centerpiece of the showroom is a series of exterior house sections. “The window installers built extensions of houses that showcase what the windows can do, and allow customers to see what window dressings would look like,” she says.

The showroom also includes a design center where homeowners can sit with the Solvay designers to discuss options.

Stratton says she has already seen the remodel’s positive effects. The showroom provides an opportunity for the company to gain additional business from its walk-in customers, which represent about 20 percent of Solvay Glass’ business. “We’ll always be a glass and screen repair shop. That gets people coming in. They might not know that we do other things,” she says. “We generate leads through people milling around—something wows them as they wait.”

The remodel has improved more than just customer relations. “Internally, we have absolutely seen benefits,” Stratton says. “It is inspiring to employees.”

Katy Devlin is senior editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at kdevlin@glass.org.