LAST WORD: Less is more for independents

09 May, 14

MD of The Kitchen Bathroom Buying Group, Bill Miller says too much choice is baffling for consumers

We all do it and we come out wondering why we have. We pop into that massive out-of-town supermarket, and then forget what it is we came in for, after being hit for six by the vast array of aisles offering limitless brands and multiple choices. The supermarket, of course, has a valid excuse for battering our senses. It is a unique beast, a one-stop shop, where choice and volume is the name of the game. There is no such excuse for the independent kitchen furniture retailer to leave the customer in a daze.

Choice can confuse

During my travels around the country, I repeatedly come across well meaning independent retailers who are confusing their customer and not making the best use of their showroom. They have come to believe that by using all the available floor space for displays, offering their customers everything, is the magic bullet for magical sales. It isn’t! The ‘covering all the bases and more is more’ concept sounds so appealing. How can you possibly fail if you display as much product as possible, thereby offering something for everyone? In truth, the confused or underwhelmed customer becomes uncertain and is simply less likely to buy. Chances are, they are already unsure of what they want when they enter your showroom, but when confronted by a supermarket-style jungle of endless options, the bewilderment escalates. 

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Don’t lose focus

Today’s customer, visiting an independent kitchen retailer, wants and expects to be wowed by the products on offer. They need to see product displays that exceed their expectations, excite them, and want them as part of their lifestyle. Don’t lose your focus. Have a clear idea of what you want your showroom to be and how you want to appeal to your customers. The message you send out has to be consistent, confident and reassuring, not that of a retailer who is unsure. Each display needs to be well thought-out, not just in terms of individual presentation, but how it will impact on the showroom as a whole. The very best showrooms take their customers on a journey with each display leading seamlessly to the next.

Specialists must specialise

Never forget that you have a tremendous edge over the multiples in terms of the knowledge and after-sales service you are able to offer. You are the specialist, so specialise, and convince your customers that what you have on display is the very best they can buy. Too much clutter, and too many displays or choices, will only serve to devalue your brand. One well designed and thought-out kitchen display will have much greater impact, and lead to greater sales, rather than several smaller displays in the same area. You are not just selling kitchen furniture, you are selling a lifestyle.

Qualify not quantity

Do your research thoroughly on your catchment area and your customer profile. Talk to people at length, when they visit your store, and establish their aspirations, and which brands are most likely to match their needs. Most of us have an instinctive talent for ascertaining other people’s aesthetic tastes and preferences. Use your findings to form a solid, viable and attractive game plan – and then trust it! You already have a head start with the knowledge that your customers have come to you because they appreciate the quality, service, advice and experience you offer. Do not disappoint them by offering them quantity instead. There is nothing at all wrong in trying to appeal to different customers. But there is a right and wrong way to do it. Less always means more!

Select your brands and the displays sparingly; make your store layout clean and punchy without being overwhelming. Pre-plan your traffic pattern and create a mood of warmth, quality and space. Those showrooms, which offer the greatest customer impact, focus as much on creating light airy open spaces within their showroom, as much as the product displays themselves. They recognise the importance of giving their customers the opportunity to stand back and view the products on display from a number of angles, rather than simply seeing space as an opportunity to cram more products on display.

Remember too that even the best showrooms need to be refreshed, customers tastes change; what worked last year may not be so saleable this. Market trends and changes are evolving ever quicker. As a forward thinking independent retailer, you need to be ahead of the curve, because if you are not, then you are not making the best use of your resource, and almost certainly your competitors will be!