Practical Showroom Advice

A showroom can boost your woodworking business, but don't go hog-wild sometimes less can be more. October 25, 2006

I am buying a building to use as a showroom and would like suggestions on how to set it up. I have been in the business for 12 years and have been thinking about doing it for the last 5 years. 80% of my work is cabinetry and the other 20% is custom molding and whatever has to do with wood! I would love to hear from someone that has a showroom and could give me some ideas on what to do and what not to do. The building is about 36x40 and is all open.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor T:
We opened our showroom 7 years ago and it has been a big success. One mistake we made was displaying full kitchens. Not only does the wood age, but we are constantly changing and improving, so the displays are outdated in a year. You have to "fire sale" them to get rid of them. We actually found it better to burn them. If you give them away, you will be adding to them in a style or construction you no longer do.

Only display what you like to do - if you display it, it will sell. Contact your suppliers, they will be happy to help you with free stuff or at least big discounts. We started with 2000 sq. ft., which was way too big; we now have 600 sq. ft. and it is plenty.

Be careful with employees. We had one who sold things to his friends below cost, one who started his own business out of our showroom and one who customers simply did not like. That said, the positives overrule.

From contributor H:
Showrooms are great, but as the previous poster stated, displaying full kitchens is not needed and they cost money. Split the building and use about 1/2 for showroom and sales office. Use the rest for storage of completed work and accessories.

From contributor C:

Our showroom started out too big, also. Trimmed it down and use it for lots of samples, finished work going out, and a few static pieces for show. How much traffic do you expect? Do you already have a staff person to sit there? Other comments are excellent.

From contributor S:
We have a small showroom because we are leasing our space and are out of room. We feature numerous vignettes, merely a 20'' lower and 20'' upper with granite tops. You can feature various crown, stain, door, toe kick and other moulding options in a small space. When trends change, you can refresh your showroom quite easily.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the great info! I was thinking about opening for appointments only (that's how I have been doing it at my shop). If all goes well, I will hire a salesperson. I like the idea of just showing part of the kitchen. My shop is in a rural area and the showroom is on the corner of a busy intersection (about 5 miles away). I also had my share of problems with salesmen, so I will be taking my time with that!

From contributor P:
To add one more voice to the choir, a huge showroom can be overwhelming to a customer and very costly to upkeep for you. If you give them too many choices, they'll never make any. My showroom is only about 16' x 20' or so, and it includes 3 small conference tables that are not only samples of work, but the sales people use them to sit down with clients. There's nothing wrong with your samples doing double duty... just make sure they're kept in excellent condition.

None of the sample vignettes are installed on the outside walls. We don't actually hang anything. This helps when upgrading styles or construction methods, but it also gives the room a unique look.

In addition, we do both euro and FF cabinetry, so our displays are two-sided... One side shows the FF version, the other the euro version of the same style/color/species, etc. The cabinets are basically installed back to back with toe kicks and crown moulding wrapping around the whole thing.

One last note... We do put the prices on the displays, including upcharges for materials, finishes, components, etc., but we only show then the per cubic foot price. This prevents them from "guessing" how expensive it is and prompts them to speak to a salesperson... which is when they get the best chance to sell.