Showrooms continue to offer the vital touch and feel ingredient, as Becki Knowles reports…
Seeing is believing, they say, so providing the ideal pool, spa or wellness showroom delivers a vital ‘touch and feel’ sales factor. London Essex Outdoor Living are the current holders of the UK Pool & Spa Awards’ Pool & Spa Showroom of the Year for its High Street, Barnet show site – one of two show sites run the by top retailing team.
It took Managing Director, Mark Woodward, more than two years to find a suitable building for the North London showroom in a prominent location with good road networks, rear parking, and a short walk from the nearby London Underground station. “We viewed numerous locations, and most were unsuitable in terms of location, poor access, low ceilings or lack of parking,” Mark explains.
“Before we could install products within the showroom, we had to design each room set to work individually and in combination with other products,” he continues. “Space planning was key to ensure good access for visitors allowing easy traffic flow from one area to another. “Crucially, the location must meet the aims of the target demographic,” he adds.
Based in the heart of a busy shopping area and covering just under 4000 sq. ft, the Barnet store stocks a strong display of products from the Hydropool range. All the ingredients for the ideal home outdoor living dream are on show. Spas are displayed alongside outdoor kitchens, garden rooms and pergolas. These are flanked by supportive ‘on trend’ sale products such as the Big Green Egg luxury barbecues, Wolf grills and fridges.
Add to to the equation a scattering of garden furniture, fire pits, lighting, glass balustrading; as well as decking and tiling finish design options, and you can see the wealth of opportunist sales potential. “Retailers should work on the space, put some effort into it – don’t just cram products in,” advises Mark.
The layout in both the London and Essex showrooms is designed to enable the customer to spot something last minute, which means that add-on purchases such as accessories, and necessary maintenance products incorporated into the display. “Most will buy what they see on display,” says Mark, adding: “So your displays should represent what the market will buy.”
The concept of the showroom is to provide inspiration to residential customers as well as a specification showroom for clients of garden designers and landscapers. “It has taken many years to put together a package of high-quality outdoor products and services,” Mark shares. “The Barnet showroom is the pinnacle of this process combining outdoor products from prominent brands to create room sets which provide inspiration to all who visit.”
At the Barnet showroom is a garden room with a cinema screen connected to a games console to free parents up to shop undisturbed. “Always have an area where you can close the deal – we have two or three areas within our showrooms in which we can close clients. “We also have a separate room where we can pull up drawings and brochures and a dedicated samples room.”
Visibility is important – while a showroom on an industrial estate might be cheaper to rent than one on a high street, without the passing trade retailers, it follows there more will need to spend on promotion to constantly remind people that they are there. The company’s Loughton showroom, on an industrial estate, has been operating for 10 years, and works harder than Barnet to generate leads through a strong social media presence.
With the cost-of-living crisis biting, consumers have had to reconsider their priorities, but it’s not all bad news Mark considers: “The market has been a lot harder over the last six months, there’s no doubt about that. However, we benefit from the difference between our showrooms – the Loughton showroom relies on leads while the one on Barnet High Street benefits from passing trade every day.
So, although the period has been tougher overall, we’ve seen no downturn.” In addition to the cost-of-living crisis, rising energy prices have forced several retailers and hospitality outlets to downsize or close over the last year. So, it’s no surprise that smaller retailers and independent stores – particularly those that must use more energy than others to showcase their products – are having to reconsider their opening times too.
Mark says that pool and spa retailers should look at demand and ask themselves: “Do I open by appointment or do I open five days a week rather than seven? “If you are selling a seasonal product, you need to consider that you might only be busy for three months a year. So, you have to look at the cost of running the showroom and ‘do the numbers’ in terms of return on that space.”
While pool and spa retailers offer one-off, big-ticket items, they could and should also offer a range of additional items that need to be purchased more regularly to ensure repeat custom. “Many of our customers now own a Big Green Egg luxury barbecue and so they come back often to purchase the fuel,” explains Mark.
“A bit like they will for chemicals to clean their hot tubs, swim spas and pools. So, you must create reasons for them to come to the showroom,” he points out. Once inside, the trick is to entice customers to spend more by introducing other products in the portfolio.
Mark explains: “There must be a degree of understanding about how a retail shop works. “You must make sure products are at a similar price point to each other and complement each other in terms of the kind of lifestyle they provide.
“If you sell someone a pool, you should continue that relationship by introducing them to other products. “For example, we have outdoor kitchens, swim spas, pergolas, garden rooms – providing products for the whole of the garden.”
Unless a customer has booked an appointment, it can be difficult to tell if showroom visitors are there to browse or buy, particularly in high street locations where a certain amount of footfall comes from the casual window shopper enjoying a little leisure time. Finding ways to convert them is key.
Says Mark: “If we see someone hanging around the hot tubs, we have a generic pitch in which we give more information. “If they are walking around the store, we might approach them and say, ‘Can I just show you around? “There is no obligation to buy anything, and you might want to tell your friends and family about us.” And Mark’s big tip: “Always offer people drinks, it’s a good ice breaker.”
London Essex Outdoor Living
Tel. 020 3150 1503