Why showrooms are still essential to boost hot tub sales, as Jane Herbert reports…
Recent lockdowns may have fast-tracked use of the latest video technology, but successful retailers agree that there is no substitute for the hands-on buying experience, making showrooms critical to securing sales.
“Buying a spa is very much like purchasing a new car,” says Jordan Sturman, Owner/Director of The Hot Tub & SwimSpa Centre in Norwich. “Regardless of budget, being able to view or demo a high ticket product like a spa is very important. Even with the latest technology, without a physical showroom it’s difficult to showpiece your range of products to someone.”
Carla Massey, Owner of award-winning Hot Tubs Oxfordshire agrees. She says their Bicester showroom is the key to the success of their overall business.
“We like to shout from the rooftops and display our products in action because, after all, the proof is in the pudding!” says Carla.
With their solid reputation continuing to drive online sales during the pandemic closures, Carla and her husband Kenny invested in adding a mezzanine floor to increase display space so that they could re-open their showroom with what she calls ‘the wow factor’.
“Having a showroom where customers can see, touch, and even wet test our hot tubs and swim spas is always the best way to secure sales. Customers often come to the showroom confused by things like the number of jets, running costs, and overall build quality so it’s great to be able to offer informative conversations face to face while demonstrating.”
Crucially, the showroom affords the perfect opportunity for effective personal selling. Sales assistants have the chance to explain the products in detail – and offer potential upgrades and add-on sales. Customers are able to make a better informed and more confident purchase that leads to greater product satisfaction, less post-purchase remorse and stronger retailer / customer relationships for the long term.
Angharad Wrigley and Joe Morgan recently opened their first showroom in Gloucestershire. With an already thriving business in hot tub hire, the couple decided to diversify into selling and the Hot Tubs Rock showroom opened in Lydney in the Forest of Dean in November 2020. “Without a physical showroom, we wouldn’t have sold 75% of the tubs we have in the past year,” explains Angharad. “Our showroom means customers can see and touch the tubs in the flesh, but also they can meet real people – who aren’t just salespeople – and gain reassurance that there is somewhere they can visit post- purchase for advice and support.”
Designing a showroom from scratch during recent times has not been without its challenges. How have they chosen what products to display and achieved a good balance of different models and price points?
“It’s been quite tricky. We want to have something to cater for everyone but not have so much product on display that it’s overwhelming. We have inflatable tubs from £775 and solids right up to £7999. We do have tubs at a higher price point but not on actual display – we would but we are still waiting for certain stock to arrive,” says Angharad.
Angharad and Joe have plans to develop their range of products and accessories – everything from pizza ovens to drinks holders – as well as offer seasonally-themed displays. With new stock arriving all the time, Angharad and Joe are also trying out different showroom layouts to see what works best. “This is our first year so we are constantly having a move around and when we find the sweet spot, we will let you know!” Family-run All Weather Leisure in the Midlands have two showrooms with similar layouts and designs. After achieving great success at their Cannock hot tub showroom, in early 2020 they launched a second location in Shrewsbury.
Sales Director Luke Shelley explains why they display products in their set collections: “The Jacuzzi collections i.e. the J200, J300 and J400 collections, and Vortex hot tubs, all have separate areas within the showroom. This allows customers to compare the different benefits from the whole series as well as the size options within the range.”
Luke believes the family’s 20 plus years of industry experience means that they instinctively know which are the preferred display models, as well as the importance of appealing to different budgets. “We have models on display ranging from £5099 to £39999. We like to believe there is a model for everyone within our showrooms,” adds Luke.
Ultimately, as Luke acknowledges, effective showroom design is about maximising the potential of the available space. As he says, “not all showrooms have the space for 16+ hot tubs and swim spas unfortunately.”
With four different brands to represent, Jordan says his 250sqm Hot Tub & SwimSpa Centre showroom has a lot to pack in.
“It’s essential to have a couple of spas filled and running, along with others where we can show of the lighting. We also like to show at least a shell in every colour, if possible, as well as the different power categories in each brand,” explains Jordan.
A recent addition to the showroom is a spa that fits into the commercial letting environment. Jordan says this is an area that has increased massively over the last 12 months with more people staying in the UK for their holidays.
Visitors to the showroom tend to follow a natural price progression throughout the store.
“Generally, customers will begin at the ‘plug and play’ end of our showroom before finishing up towards our bigger spas – including the swimspa in the far corner.”
Raised flooring and decking help to make the most of the space. “I think it’s important not to just have a big hall of spas on one level. We try to make the spas stand out as much as possible. We also have new mezzanine flooring down one side of our showroom and plans to extend to maximise our show space.”
Creativity is key in helping the customer to fully imagine the new hot tub in their own home. The right display setting can be crucial in securing the sale and can also lead to installation upgrades.
All Weather Leisure are well-known for the supply of wooden garden buildings and gazebos alongside their hot tubs and spas.
“We like to showcase different types of buildings and plants surrounding the hot tubs, so customers can get a better idea of how it will look in their own property,” says Luke.
“Our selection of wooden gazebos and Covana covers offers customers the option of privacy over their hot tubs. We also have a whole range of cover lifters, steps, filters and chemicals to cater for new or existing hot tub owners and complement tub sales.”
Getting the balance right is key. Too much information or stock and you risk over-stimulating and confusing the customer. It’s also important to give your sales team the opportunity to shine.
“We find it important not to have too many information banners and not to endorse a kind of DIY with finding out the info – we feel it is key to engage with the customer direct and help them choose a spa that is specific to them,” says Jordan of Norwich’s Hot Tub & SwimSpa Centre.
Carla of Hot Tubs Oxfordshire also believes a more minimalist approach reaps dividends and better represents the luxury brands she works with.
“Each of our hot tubs or swim spas has its own dedicated display, made up of plants, wooden structures, and bold lifestyle images ensuring that a customer can imagine the product in their garden,” explains Carla.
“We are always fully stocked with a comprehensive range of chemicals and accessories, but we move away from the traditional full shelf look to ensure customers can easily find what they need. A slick streamlined showroom design with black walls, strong lifestyle images and lightboxes gives a sense of luxury and classiness that best reflects the products we sell.”
Taking care of customers throughout their whole purchasing journey is crucial as an ethos within the showroom space itself, as well as to the business as a whole. Displaying add-on products in store that are subscription-based helps aid customer retention. Whilst regular events such as VIP evenings showcase their complementary ranges such as outdoor kitchens, offer a thank you to customers, and encourage additional sales.
“We believe that it’s vital to continue exceptional aftercare as we want to keep our customers loyal to us. Happy customers become an extension of our sales team.”
At the end of the day, retailers agree that it’s all about providing excellent customer service, regardless of the ‘surface dressing’ of the showroom environment.
First impressions really do count. And for Carla and her team, that means having dedicated parking and a friendly face to greet customers as soon as they walk through the door.
“We train our staff on the importance of serving first and selling second. We believe having a welcoming smile and a coffee in hand while browsing is essential in ensuring a high-end shopping experience that only physically being in the showroom can offer.”