The journey from the racks-and-stacks of the traditional CE retail showfloor to the deliberately designed lifestyle rooms and vignettes of the 21st-century C-tailer is one of mind as much as it is of matter.
By Nancy Klosek
Strategizing a showroom space these days requires tactical skills on par with those of the best generals in any major conflict. The challenges in the battlefield have been amplified lately by the influences of that landless-but-growing territory known as cyberspace.
It's hard enough in 2005 to draw foot traffic into brick-and-mortar stores. But once clients are within the boundaries of your "theater of war," coming up with creative ways to captivate and engage them can spell the difference between a sale and a "sayonara."
For longstanding A/V specialty retailers who have built their businesses with predominantly traditional retail presentations, it's particularly daunting to learn how to convert customers with great demos in great rooms. We polled some of the most successful specialty retailers about what they're doing to build up their strengths in the showroom, and found entrepreneurs in different stages of development where lifestyle retail settings are concerned. All, however, agreed that paramount to staying competitive and profitable is a constant refreshing of showroom floorplans—and, just as importantly, a refreshing of the approaches of their sales associates.
Evolution of the Lifestyle-Oriented Showroom
Like many C-tailers, Gramophone, a three-store operation based in Timonium, Md., began as a stereo store in the '70s, brought in video in the '80s—"standalone TVs, VCRs and laserdisc players, separate from the stereo equipment," says President Brian Hudkins—and began displaying integrated A/V "when we realized no one was coming to us only for a TV." The strategy progressed to the point that a local interior designer was hired to create a media room with custom cabinets, hidden speakers, a built-in 45-inch rear-projection TV and a surround system.