Should I Supply Cabinets for a Countertop Display?

Cabinetmakers mull over the idea of supplying a countertop dealer with cabinets for a showroom. December 9, 2007

I have a two person shop. We mostly do kitchen replacements, often including extensive remodeling. My partner does the brunt of the remodeling and I do the shop work with some overlap. Our granite top supplier is opening a new showroom and is interested in offering a line of our cabinets. It is 4-6 weeks from start to completion of a typical job, so we are in no way a production shop. They would like our cabinets with their tops in their new display room. How much should I consider investing in providing display cabinets? I am to meet with them next week and would like to think this through first.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor W:
I'm going to play devil's advocate here. If he is serious about selling your cabinets, then make him buy the display. If he balks, then tell him to give you a kitchen of free granite so that you can set up a showroom in your shop, and see what happens. Sounds like 6 weeks of work for you to make a display for his granite countertops. I've never heard of a granite shop carrying a line of cabinets, but I could be wrong.

The granite man could buy the big box store cabinets, but then his granite wouldn't look as good as having high quality custom cabinets underneath his stone. Do you think he made the same deal with the sheetrock or flooring people? This just sounds like a very unequal deal for you. How many cabinets has this guy sold? If he has no track record, then what guarantee do you have that you will ever see anything come through him?

Make him sign a contract that says that he will sell X number of cabinets from your shop in a year or pay you for the display. You may not even need him, since your best advertisement is a satisfied customer. If you give him the cabinets, he is not considered a customer.

From contributor T:
He cannot promote only your cabinets. If he did, how many other shops would send people to him? At least for us, it works the opposite way - we send people to the granite place.

From contributor R:

One thing to consider is that this would give you a showroom to send your potential customers to. If you have a good relationship with the granite supplier, it will pay for itself many times over. One good kitchen job will pay off the time and money spent on the display cabinets, and the next jobs are gravy. Many people will go to the granite place first, and learn about you from him. Think about doing a mixed-style display, with different woods and finishes to show off what you can do. The granite guy will be able to show what his stuff looks like against different types of cabinets. Look at his showroom and see if it looks like a collection of lots of different colors and styles of stuff, not necessarily all granite. I would be a little suspicious if he wants to put the showroom cabinets in his house.

From contributor O:
Tell him that's a great idea and you will give him a good deal on it. Take 5% off what you would normally charge, but don't tell him how much off. If he balks, tell him you will give him a wholesale discount on each set of cabinets he orders from you. What? He just wants to direct them to you? Free cabinets is too a high price to pay for a few leads, wouldn't you agree? Tell him that.

From contributor I:
Pros and cons both ways. I get requests for display stock, which are mainly bogus. Got burned a couple of times, but now I charge normal price for the display model and tell the reseller that they can have the tenth order free. I recognize that this is different, but I would ask him to pay (at least your costs and time, if not any profit) for the initial install and say that you will pay him a commission on the first X number of customers that he finds you. Keeps him interested and involved - saves you being out of pocket.

From contributor B:
If a client is shopping the granite, haven't they already bought their cabinets?

From the original questioner:
I like contributor R's response, but have the reservations others have expressed. I had not thought of contributor T's reservation, but can see it as something I should bring up. I do not see a real showroom with street traffic, which this could provide, happening any other way. I may be overly optimistic, but this generating work I can't fulfill would not be good either. I think having a line of cabinets as well as the tops might bring some additional business to the countertop folks, as well as presenting their product better.

From contributor C:
I might be more inclined to get into this type of arrangement with a reputable and well-located appliance retailer, rather than a granite fabricator. When thinking about a new kitchen, the new appliances often drive the project, so you have many potentials seeing your cabinets already accommodating the dishwashers and refrigerators that they would like to purchase. Seems like better synergy to me.

From contributor D:
9 times out of 10, the cabinet store comes before the granite store.

From contributor P:
We sell both our own custom cabinets and factory made cabinets. When we purchase a display for our showroom from a factory, we get it at cost minus 25-50% depending on the manufacturer. This should give you an idea how much to charge him for the displays.

From contributor C:
I think you're on the right track thinking this through first. Your shop is too small to make a multi-thousand dollar investment in someone else's showroom. Many good points in the previous posts here. I've been asked several times over the years and they always want something for free. I like the idea of a bonus after the 10th job. The good customers always keep coming back.

From contributor L:
Is he willing to put a sign on the cabinets with your name on it? Is he willing to sign an agreement saying your name and business cards stay on the display? What will his other cabinet shops think about sending their customers there? He is obviously fishing for a cheap showroom display. I really doubt you are going to get much out of it. I have learned the hard way that you don't offer things for free unless there is a clear benefit. In this case I can't see much benefit other than having people see your name on some cabinets who have probably already chosen their cabinets. There are cheaper ways of advertising. I say charge him full price.