A showroom used to be a non-negotiable for catering and events businesses—the best way to help clients envision their own event was, literally, to show them! But today's consumer is changing. With more millennials taking the reins and celebrating life events like marriage, the place for evaluating which pieces work best for a busy client is now, often, online. So, is a showroom right for you? Consider the following questions:
Who are your clients?
Track your current clientele as well as any untapped demographics you're trying to reach. If you specialize in weddings, what's the breakdown? Are you dealing mostly with professional planners, parents of the couple, or the couple themselves? While many millennials are comfortable making decisions about vendors via web galleries, blogs, and Instagram and Pinterest, their parents might still want to see and touch furniture, fabrics, and decorative items for themselves. More mature clientele might find meeting you in person to be an important part of their decision-making process, while planners and vendors with whom you have previous relationships already may know your inventory—for them, images of your pieces in social media are what keep your offerings fresh in their mind.
What are your pieces?
If you specialize in vintage, unique, or especially valuable rentals, a tastefully designed showroom can enhance and feature your pieces, while offering your clients personalized ideas about how to mix and match items. While it's always a good idea to stage combinations of pieces through website photo galleries, social media posts, and vendor photo shoots, some of your more detail-oriented clients may want to know exactly what combinations will work for them. For that level of customization, an in-person showroom is the best way to display how you can tailor events to their needs. That said, big-ticket utility items like tables, chairs, and couches may be viewed and compared more easily online. Consider adding a "compare" feature to your website's checkout function so that potential clients can add items to their cart and easily toggle between options.
What's your space and budget?
Any showroom space you need will depend on the size of your inventory and what items are most worth featuring in a curated way. How much room do you need for your best pieces? How flexible does the space need to be to move things around? If your items are modular, portable, or feature lots of mix-and-match, you might not need as much space as you think. Can you clear out and reorganize a space that you already have? If not, how does building or renting additional space for a showroom fit into your company's budget? If there's an advantage in adding a showroom, keep in mind that it will need to be clean, meticulously organized, and beautifully lit and presented. Consider having beverages available, fresh flowers, lit candles, and resources like wedding planning guides and information about your partner vendors available for those who take the time to come in.
What's right for you?
Ultimately, not every events company needs a showroom. Your best bet is to evaluate each of your items, consider the most common ways they're used alone and together, and think about which of your clients tend to go for them. Multiple clear images (including close-ups, different angles, and mock-ups) and strong website functionality may be enough to showcase many of your pieces for smaller events, while more unique items and displays for larger events may need to be seen in combination to be fully appreciated. If you do spring for a showroom, make it multi-functional and geared to your social media strategy: take photos and create hashtags in the room showing clients with your staff; if the space is right, work with photographers to offer couples quick, customizable engagement shoots in your showroom; and make your showroom the place where you feature your latest pieces to vendors so that they can get to know your new inventory.