This American Standard® showroom group takes the show on the road with mobile displays
Let it not be said that Central Arizona Supply Company is asleep at the wheel. The plumbing and HVAC distributor started up 42 years ago in Mesa, Arizona, in the heart of “The Grand Canyon State”, and has since expanded across northern and southern Arizona, with nine locations, plus one in Las Vegas, Nevada. Six include showrooms, the newest in the city of Show Low, Arizona. Showrooms have played an integral role in the framework of the company since its beginning, but it wasn’t until the early years of the 21st century that Central Arizona Supply began focusing on displaying products in a dynamic manner geared toward increasing retail consumer traffic. Prior to that, the showrooms were what Jeremy Smith, showroom director of Central Arizona Supply for the past eight years, describes as ‘typical wholesale showrooms’ in that they focused more on the wholesale side, neglecting the potential business their showrooms could draw in.
To draw in more consumer business, Smith knew they had to keep their displays engaging. But a study of competing showrooms in their respective markets revealed another fact in Smith’s mind – displays must also remain fresh. He discovered other showrooms were not refreshing their displays frequently enough to capture and maintain the continual interest of their customers. Moreover, older showrooms were displaying product years behind the latest trends.
There was a common thread in Smith’s findings – something as fundamental as keeping displays updated and fresh was being overlooked in the vast majority of showrooms in his region. Smith heard opportunity knocking. So together with his team, he laid out a plan to tailor each showroom to its unique market and then keep them fresh and engaging with manufacturers like American Standard, Jado and Porcher that offer an extraordinarily broad line of products at price points that blanket a wide consumer demographic. Read on and learn how Central Arizona Supply Company, with the help of American Standard Brands, rolled out their plan to keep their showrooms the freshest under the Southwest’s hot desert sun.
Central Arizona Supply – American Standard® Showrooms with Hot Wheels
It seemed to Jeremy Smith, showroom director at Central Arizona Supply Company, that the latest in kitchen and bath products in New York City showrooms would not appear until years later in his home state of Arizona. Central Arizona Supply, a third-generation, family-owned plumbing and HVAC distributor where Smith has been employed nearly a decade, was no exception. The company, which has its roots in Mesa, Arizona where it started in 1968 as a small retail store before becoming a wholesale distributor four years later, had not yet fully committed to utilizing its showrooms to optimum operational capacity.
Smith’s revelation while scouring competitors beyond the outer boundaries of his market would lead to the launch of Central Arizona Supply’s “Kitchen & Bath Studio” concept in 2004. The concept placed greater emphasis on the company’s showrooms by way of delivering more dedicated service through the redesign and updating of each showroom. This included a staff of showroom design professionals trained to create the ideal kitchen and bath environment, customized and tailored not only to their specific market, but also to the budgetary needs of their respective client base.
Paramount to placing more focus on the retail showroom end of the business was offering a vast selection of the most revolutionary kitchen and bath products in the industry. As an independent wholesaler, Central Arizona and Smith had the freedom to offer the very best in products in terms of distinctive quality and design. They also had the capacity for stocking inventory and keeping prices competitive in accordance with the geographic market of their individual showrooms. Today, with ten wholesale locations –— six of them housing showrooms — Central Arizona Supply is partnering with American Standard Brands to provide the right product mix specific to the market, while staying up on the latest trends.
Let it roll
Partnering with American Standard is an endeavor Central Arizona Supply undertook more recently, but already the move has proved beneficial, according to Smith. While the broad range of products from American Standard is making it easier for Smith to empower his showroom teams to create a look that is unique to their market, it is his ingenuity that allows six individual showrooms to stay fresh at all times. “We’re not your cookie-cutter showroom,” says Smith, who sees the similarities between refreshing displays and creating new designs in the fashion industry, where he had spent the early part of his career.
Making this possible in great part is Smith’s idea to keep his showrooms mobile. “To keep up on the latest trends, everything is moveable,” he continues. “Everything is on wheels. Nothing is permanent, except the building’s structural walls. When we brought on the American Standard, Jado and Porcher lines, we noticed immediately how easy it was to integrate their products. It allows us to replace slow-moving products and quickly incorporate a new line or a new trend. So we’re always on the cutting edge of the industry.”
Because his showroom displays are mobile, Smith, who prefers the flexibility of displays to the more fixed vignette showcase, literally rolls in a new look every six months. Moreover, if an item is not selling, he will first roll it to a more strategic location on the showroom floor before wheeling it out the door. “Sometimes moving a slow-selling product to a different locale within the showroom makes all the difference,” Smith points out, noting the importance of grouping the right products together. “When a product is placed properly, customers suddenly take note and it will start selling,” he says.
To Smith and his team of showroom professionals, refreshing the showrooms means more than simply swapping out product. The layout of products within the displays and the configuration of the displays within the showrooms are changed regularly. The frequent movement involved in keeping six showrooms fresh and engaging also serves to reinforce intrapersonal relationships among employee. “We do it together,” says Smith, referring to work involved in refreshing the showrooms. “We’ll work late and make it fun. It’s an opportunity for everyone to take part and feel like they’ve contributed. It’s everyone’s showroom.”
Four wheel drive
Among the reasons Central Arizona Supply brought on American Standard, according to Smith, are the versatility and completeness of its collections, as well as the ease of installation. “American Standard gives you the versatility to coordinate from a complete selection of products within their collections,” Smith notes. “Many manufacturers offer limited product and only one option per category within a collection. American Standard’s Town Square® collection, for example, has four toilets to choose from. And you can mix and match with over 20 coordinating pieces, from towel bar to whirlpool, so we can quickly and easily make changes in our displays.”
Timesaving is an important consideration for Smith and his team, given the frequency with which Central Arizona Supply refreshes its displays. “American Standard innovations, like the Speed Connect® drain, play a huge role in our ability to quickly and efficiently roll new product in and out of our displays,” says Smith, adding, “It allows us to hook up toilets and sinks fast without special tools or plumber’s putty. And we can simultaneously take the opportunity to demonstrate the ease of installation for customers and contractor accounts.”
American Standard has also allowed Central Arizona Supply to make a bolder statement with their displays, according to Smith. “We find the new American Standard toilets, like the Tropic® Cadet® 3 Right Height®, have a bigger, much more significant design presence than other petite toilets common throughout the industry,” Smith points out.
Business has remained relatively steady through the down economy for Central Arizona Supply. In part, this is due to customers opting to fix rather than replace fixtures. A change in the sales ratio has also resulted from a new cautious consumer mindset. “We’ve experienced a complete flip in business. Our Scottsdale showroom, for instance, went from 80-percent new construction sales and 20-percent remodel sales to the exact opposite of 80-percent remodel and 20-percent new construction,” Smith says, citing the increase in remodel sales involve customers who have opted to stay put and retire in their homes rather than move. “And because people are staying in their homes longer than they had anticipated,” he continues, “many have decided to do full bath remodels. So they’re looking for selection in product that will fulfill what they had envisioned.”
Multiple locations afford Central Arizona Supply the advantage of having inventory. “With American Standard, Jado and Porcher we have more selection,” says Smith, pointing out that American Standard’s quality speaks for itself, since it is a well-recognized brand. “And in addition to promoting the brand and its superior quality reputation,” he continues, “we want our customers to appreciate the wider selection offered. For example, we carry more than your standard white toilet, and if you want the Studio® Cadet 3 Right Height in silver, we have it. If you want the Green Tea® EverClean® whirlpool, it’s in stock. In essence, our customers see fresh, new product in our showrooms continually and get everything they need for a high-end remodel today or tomorrow, while they would need to special order elsewhere.”
The road to Woodstock
Since Central Arizona Supply was founded in the 1960s, it is currently using a Sixties-themed advertising campaign to illustrate that they adhere to the core meaning of customer service of that era, before it became a catchphrase. Indeed, for Central Arizona Supply, the key to longevity has been providing an equal and consistently high level of customer service no matter the volume of sale, and without regard for economic conditions. “So many of our competitors are scrambling to lure back the smaller purchases that were overlooked when the economy was in a better place,” says Smith. “As a result, they are now experiencing slow sales. We appreciate small purchases more than ever. Collectively, small purchases now drive our sales.”
The Sixties retro advertising campaign underscores Central Arizona Supply’s steadfast customer service commitment that takes an old-fashioned notion down the road to the 21st century and makes it fresh again. Their “Righteous Remodeling” advertising flyer displays a tulip wallpaper background common to the era with bath display images around the slogan, “American Standard – Style That Works Better.” Like those in the know, Central Arizona Supply understands that to remain fresh and young, one must keep moving. And no doubt, if history is an indicator, this group of American Standard, Jado and Porcher showrooms will still be rockin’ down the highway for years to come.