FIRST IMPRESSIONS count, and for party rental operators, that means making your mark with your showroom. To reap maximum rewards from your showroom, it should be a place where careful planning, creativity and showmanship blend to encourage your client to ask more questions, see more samples and rent more products.
An effectively decorated showroom helps spark the client's imagination, says Ben Shipper IV, vice president of Chicago Party Rental in Countryside, Ill. “When your customer sees a tabletop, you want it to open some more doors.”
He often pairs highly popular items, such as geometrically shaped plates, with something a bit more staid, such as old-fashioned glassware. The combination inspires discussion and ideas, he says. One recent idea-sparker at Shipper's showroom featured glass tableware nested atop apricot paper roses, a colorful setting that drew raves from visitors, he notes.
It's best to use every square foot of your showroom without making it look like the first hour of a garage sale. Although Hall's Rental Service of Lincolnwood, Ill., recently doubled its showroom space to 85,000 square feet, the company opted to create scenarios within that space rather than crowding it with a hodgepodge of all the rental items it offers.
“We used to try to get every single piece of equipment out there on the showroom floor,” admits Jack Luft, Hall's president. “But it just doesn't work.”
What is working for Hall's is a theme display showcasing the upcoming season, along with the judicious use of props to create what Luft calls “that ‘Martha Stewart Living’ magazine, Crate & Barrel look.”
Abbey Party Rents in Dallas recently transformed half of its showroom into a scene from the popular television series “Survivor,” complete with tiki huts and faux flaming torches.
Owner John Jakob reports, “No sooner than we put it up, we noticed tiki huts were being rented out everywhere, so we know this display had the right emotional effect on people.”
Unique and antique memorabilia also invite attention. “Our front counter is a real antique oak wood bar about 18 feet long,” Jakob says. “We feature lots of weird stuff behind it, from buffalo hides and old cigarette ads to steer heads and cowhides. We're almost a museum.”
The most effective showrooms invite the visitor to enjoy a little hands-on involvement. “We always keep one table available for people to experiment with their own displays,” says Kelly Murphy, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Panache Party Rentals. “A rental customer may come in wanting all white linen for a wedding, and in playing with the tabletop will start adding color and overlays, leading to impulse purchases.”
Tri-Rentals of Phoenix goes one step further by inviting prospective customers to attend hosted luncheons held right in the showroom. Explains Tri-Rental's director of marketing Karen May, “It's much more effective to let customers see it, touch it and feel it rather than just handing them a tablecloth as they sit at their desks back at the office, and they have to imagine how well the piece would work.”
Within the first three weeks of the program's debut, management knew it had a winning marketing technique: “Follow-up requests for brochures, photographs and more information were higher than ever,” May says.
RESOURCES: Abbey Party Rents, 214/350-5373; Chicago Party Rental, 800/322-5868; Hall's Rental Service, 847/929-2222; Panache Party Rentals, 800/30-PARTY; Tri-Rentals, 800/678-3854
Four Commandments for Spectacular Showrooms
Keep it simple
Showcase a good representation of your wares, but not everything. If customers want to see it all, invite them on a tour of the warehouse.
Keep it surprising
Think outside the box when creating themes, and don't be afraid to mix and match unusual pairings.
Allow for spontaneity
An area where customers can “play,” creating their own display, often invites impulse rentals.
Keep it changing seasonally
At the very least, change your showroom look every season; every six weeks is even better for keeping a fresh inviting look for customers to see what's new.