A year and a half ago, Phil Brown, owner of Archadeck of Central Connecticut, opened a 2,500-square-foot showroom featuring two porches, a sunroom, and a multilevel deck. “We wanted another point of differentiation,” Brown says. “And a controlled environment.”
Joel Boyer, owner of Unique Deck Builders, knows the value of his 3,000-square-foot showroom in a small strip mall in Highland Park, Ill.: It builds business. For instance, last spring a lady walked in, he says, saw one of the displays, and decided to replace her existing deck. “It wound up being a $30,000 Trex floor,” Boyer recalls.
SHOW THE GOODS Most deck companies use their most recent projects as their “showroom.” But for some deck builders, real showrooms prove to be well worth the cost and effort. For example, sales are up 25% in the three years since Boyer opened his showroom. And Wes Barber, co-owner of DW Elite Decks, in Olathe, Kan., says that sales have increased 35% to 40% since he opened an 800-square-foot showroom. At Archadeck of St. Louis, the 2,000-square-foot showroom — open since 1998 — is “probably worth 20% of sales a year,” president Mike Morrow says.
Showrooms also help to move buyers to higher-end materials and designs, increase leads, help contractors close more jobs more easily, and can provide work during slower months via walk-ins. Most importantly, a showroom enhances a contractor's visibility and the consumers' perception of the company.
WORTH THE OVER HEAD? Showrooms do add to overhead; but benefits outweigh costs. Barber says that DW Elite Decks' showroom builds a pipeline of future buyers. “People call back a couple of years later, when they can afford it, because the company sticks in their mind,” Barber says.
They also add a retail sales element that many contractors haven't had to consider before. “Make sure it's a pleasing environment, and change things periodically to keep displays fresh,” Morrow says. “Show what you want to sell,” Boyer adds. “You want to give the feeling that you can handle any size job.” —Jay Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Jamestown, R.I.