Lavender shoes with yellow soles and a lavender shirt announce Bill Herren’s comfort with color and arresting migeof presentation.
Despite his obvious flair, however, Herren, an industrial engineer by training, was hired 31 years ago to redo Whitecraft’s customer service department.
Then the company’s showroom designer quit, and Herren’s search for a replacement failed. All the designers he interviewed lacked the fundamentals of good showroom design: “They don’t know us, or our customers or our furniture,” Herren recalled telling his boss.
So Herren began designing showrooms 16 years ago, and when Woodard Furniture bought Whitecraft in 2012, Herren became the company’s creative director.
Merchandising done well builds clientele and boosts sales, which is why Herren spends much of his time visiting Woodard’s retailers.
He often starts with showing the retailer how to display outdoor product to grab customer’s attention.
“I’ll do a whole sofa in some wild fabrics for two reasons,” Herren said. “To make sure everybody stops and looks at it, and so that dealers don’t get scared to show something like that.
“Because if the dealers have the right salespeople, they can put some of the more unusual stuff on their floor, knowing that their salespeople are able to explain to customers, “This isn’t the only way you can get this. You can order this with any of 500 different fabrics’.
“If they can do that, then they have a chance to show a little bit more color and life on their floors than … beige.”
Applying the showroom concept used with indoor furniture also helps, Herren said, because customers need to see more than just a few choices.
“If you’re only showing two sets or three sets, then the customer might say, “Well, I don’t like those’, and they’ll turn around and walk out,” Herren said. “It’s not giving them an opportunity to pick something that they like.”
But with floor space at a premium. retailers need to select styles they know will appeal to their customers and “put it with the right finish and the right fabric that will show well in their store, Herren said.
The next step is to accessorize each grouping completely. “I love throw pillows,” he said. “It’s a less expensive way of dressing up something” or adding color to a neutral upholstery.
“A set table always looks so much nicer than an empty rectangular empty space,” he said, and a rug defines the whole ensemble and “makes you look at just that set right there, like it’s in its own little box.”
If a retailer has a grouping set up and accessorized correctly, Herren said, “the customer’s not only going to buy that furniture, they’re going to buy everything around that furniture so they can duplicate it at home.”
Keeping the showroom tidy is a must, but also a challenge because customers will sit in a group of furniture, handle the accessories, rearrange the throw pillows, leave their water bottles and walk to the next group, Herren said.
The entire store will soon be in disarray if a retailer doesn’t have someone continuously tidying up. “Hopefully you have customers coming in throughout the day,” Herren said, “so it’s not an end-of-the-day kind of thing.”
Floating furniture doesn’t sell as well, Herren has concluded. Woodard makes iron, aluminum and woven collections, and at one point displayed those groups separately.
Customers may enter the store and “in their minds are saying, “I only want iron furniture,” and if they didn’t like that iron group, they might just turn around and walk out.”
But if they see something they hadn’t thought of before, such as a woven group as they’re walking through, “they might say “let me see how that feels.”
This is where the eye-popping accessorizing can help. For a customer to even consider buying furniture, “it has to look good,” Herren said. “Then it has to sit good. If you have those, then the price appeal is not that big a deal anymore.”
All this can fail, however, if the sales staff isn’t properly trained.
“Unless you’re knowledgeable about outdoor furniture, how do you explain to someone that they’re going to pay $2,000 more for something that’s going to sit outside, as opposed to the sofa that’s going to be inside that they’re going to sit on everyday?” Herren posed.
Retailers need staff who can explain to customers the quality, the warranties, the durability that come with the price tag.
And who can deliver the one thing that should go without saying, Herren added: “China training furnitures manufacturer Customers are not going to buy from anybody, be it store or online, who doesn’t give them the service they should get.”