In real estate, location is everything. And for Tinton Falls, N.J.–based The Standard Group’s newest showrooms, location is everywhere. That’s because the dealer put wheels on four showrooms, setting up three trailers and a truck to showcase windows and cabinetry.
The Show & Go program is Standard’s solution to two challenges. First, the company serves a wide area that includes most of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and southern New York. Even a central location could require a customer to drive for an hour or more, says John Askin Jr., vice president of finance. Second, he adds, the cost of real estate in the region tends to be prohibitive.
The innovations embodied in The Standard Group’s Show & Go program earn the company the ProSales 2013 Excellence Award for showrooms design.
Initially, the idea of several showrooms did come up, but the cost of staffing and changing out products, in addition to buying land, earned it a thumbs-down. “After brainstorming about this for a while, we came up with the idea of going mobile,” Askin says. “It’s a paradigm shift in showroom design.”
The three 15-foot trailers, which hitch to the salesmen’s four-wheel-drive vehicles, feature Loewen, Quaker, and Jeld-Wen windows. Each highlights several wood window types from one manufacturer, plus finishes, colors, hardware, and other options. “They have neat things like lite cuts and copper cladding,” Askin says. “They help us upsell in the high-end market.” The windows are working models.
In addition, Standard uses products from other lines it sells to create a finished look for the windows. Among them are porch decking and trim from Azek, trim from Boral, siding from James Hardie, and veneer from Coronado Stone.
To go mobile with cabinetry, the dealer bought the largest truck it could without requiring a commercial driver’s license to operate: a 24-foot box truck. Onboard are five kitchen scenarios designed to show as many options from Norcraft Cabinetry and Aristokraft Cabinetry as possible. Cabinet doors can be taken out of the showroom and into an office or home.
Also in the truck is a mini office that salesmen can use. It’s small but well-equipped so that quotes can be created and printed out.
In assessing the competitive advantages of Show & Go, Askin lists five points. First, of course, is the mobility. Noting that showroom traffic typically depends a lot on location, he appreciates the ability to meet contractors, architects, and their clients wherever is convenient for them. That flexibility was applauded by the judges, who said they loved the idea of bringing products to customers.
Second, Askin points to the lack of the fixed costs associated with a traditional showroom: no building, full-time staff, or utilities.
Third, a contractor no longer needs to send a customer to a competitor’s showroom if it happens to be closer than a Standard showroom, possibly costing Standard that sale.
That advantage is related to the fourth one—an improved closing rate. “Having the ability to ensure that a full showroom experience is available during a sales call has increased our closing rate,” Askin says. “All of our salesmen and product managers have said that if the Show & Go trailer is on the call, they get the sale.”
And now both contractors and architects are taking advantage of the mobile showrooms. Contractors are making appointments with Standard to have a Show & Go trailer or truck go along on sales calls with their own potential customers. “We have now become part of their selling tools and thus have strengthened our relationship with them,” Askin says.
With architects, Standard finds that the ability to have the showroom out in the parking lot, rather than miles away, leads to an increased spec rate. Askin credits that to the convenience of the architects being able to see and touch the windows and cabinetry.
It’s not complex to schedule use of the showrooms. The dealer usually has two salespeople for cabinetry and one for windows, and they figure out which Show & Go to take to a particular sales call. The truck often is used for visits to apartments. With so much business in New Jersey, hit hard by Superstorm Sandy last year, the mobile showrooms have spent a good amount of time parked on streets in storm-battered neighborhoods so that both contractors and homeowners can look at the products. “Homeowners can take samples inside [their homes] to see what they like,” Askin says.
Keeping the windows trailers updated is also easy to do, he adds. The Loewen trailer, which was the first Show & Go project, has been redone several times, and the Quaker trailer is brand-new.
The cabinetry truck was renovated so that only one cabinet door opens—to avoid having to bungee cord the doors closed—and the granite countertops replaced.
While there are no plans to add to the showroom fleet, Askin says, “if we bring on another type of line, we’d have to think about whether we want to do a Show & Go for it.”
2013 ProSales Excellence Award By the Numbers
$8,000: Cost of each trailer for windows (includes labor to build showroom)
$22,000: Cost to lease 24-foot box truck for cabinetry(plus $5,000 for labor to build showroom)
—Diane Kittower is a freelance writer/editor in Maryland.