By Tyler Mochizuki
So I guess the question is… why showrooms? There are so many ways, especially with digital media today, to display an interior designer’s work.
Well, having a showroom offers one key marketing value that no other medium has: seeing designs in person. There is no better way of showing clients, both current and prospective, a designer’s vision and creative process than in person. Showrooms come without the constraints of real projects.
Simply put, a showroom is truly a designer’s free and happy space.
Young Designers and Showrooms
I recently spoke with a familiar face, London Walder, who has previously been a guest on The Chaise Lounge Podcast. Though she is quickly advancing her career in the interior design industry, London warns young designers from opening a showroom prematurely. They require significant time and financial investments, she says. Instead, she encourages young designers to work under highly experienced designers in a variety of projects. The up-and-coming Chicago based designer recently debuted her first showroom. It features a balanced blend of modern and vintage styles.
With practice, designers will develop their own “signature look” which is a crucial element of running a successful showroom.
More often than not, money is the driving force behind the decisions of any business, and this is no different in the industry of design. The unfortunate truth is that showrooms are expensive. That’s not to say that showrooms are exclusively reserved for well-practiced interior designers. It merely comes down to the fact that they have the established funds to open shop.
“I think it’s one of those things that you should only do when you feel comfortable spending the appropriate amount of money to make the showroom look good,” London explains. She has a fund set aside reserved exclusively for showroom expenses and is entirely separate from her day-to-day business accounts.
There are two large upfront expenses of showrooms to consider: leasing the space and initial purchase of furniture and other decorative pieces. Designing your showroom authentically and uniquely to your style is essential in making it stand out to clients – but can be pricey.
Often, showrooms will offer exclusive discounts on specific pieces of furniture and accompanying accessories. They are an excellent way to showcase pieces and products that are not sold by general retail stores. This aspect alone can potentially attract a wide variety of clients.
While showrooms do have significant upfront costs, they can be extremely beneficial to designers to draw in more substantial clientele and increase financial gains in the long run.
Showrooms are there for YOU
It’s easy to assume showrooms are intimidating spaces reserved only for the top designers. Don’t worry! A designer can expect their showroom will give back just as much as a designer invests. Places like The Chicago Merchandise Mart (The Mart) are prime examples the mutual relationship between designers and showrooms.
Judy Giordano of A. Rudin, Inc. at The Mart advises all designers to “take advantage of the unique, custom lines offered by the showrooms… rather than shopping at retail furniture stores.”
Walking through established showrooms exposes designers to the work and products of others, helping to curate a unique look.
Designers “can work with wholesale showrooms [like The Mart] to market themselves by hosting events, seminars, and luncheons,” says Judy. Her experience has extended over 25 years in the design business. Designers are enabled to drive significantly more traffic in business by using social media platforms of the showrooms.
For designers new to using showrooms, it is important to establish relationships with sales representatives, get on showroom mailing lists, and attend events. Showroom spaces provide perfect environments to network, meet peers, and find potential clients. Perfect for the design industry, being all about connections.
Treat showrooms like long-term investments, because, while they have significant upfront expenses, the benefits vastly outweigh the initial costs.
Don’t think that you are in it alone when investing in such spaces, because as Judy puts it, “[showrooms] are here to help you.”