The Wow Factor

Backroom sales are no longer the norm. Now you need a showroom that stands out. Here are a few.

In the old days, a guy came into your store, asked for something, you went to the back and came out with whatever he needed. Not any more. With the increase of places like The Home Depot, Lowe’s and fancy hardware stores, gases and welding distributors are sprucing up their showrooms and turning them into retail havens for shoppers. This doesn’t mean that these showrooms are huge. Some are small, but they have used color, shelving, flooring and product placement for optimum customer response.

Many distributors are turning to those box stores and other retail giants like Target, Wal-Mart and NAPA Auto Parts stores to get ideas on how best to display product. “Every time you walk into a store, any store, you can get an idea about what you might do in your showroom,” says Jim Kissler, CEO of Norco (Boise, Idaho). Before building his new location, Mike Krupnicki, president of Mahany Welding Supply (Rochester, NY), spent time watching HGTV to learn about color, design and product placement. His store has been recognized by AWS for its positive image of welding.

Of course, the majority of people coming into a store are stopping in to purchase something they need. The challenge is always to get that customer to look around and buy something else.Ashley Murray, president of Liberty Industrial Gases & Welding Supply (Brooklyn, NY), says that there is a shopper in everybody if you market properly. In today’s gases and welding climate, the showroom “wow” factor may be just what you need.

When Quimby Corporation moved into its new building in Portland, Oregon, 2,000 sq. ft. were devoted to showroom space. A large circular counter in the middle of the store enables three sales clerks to service customers on both sides.

Hammer

When Quimby Corporation moved into its new building in Portland, Oregon, 2,000 sq. ft. were devoted to showroom space. A large circular counter in the middle of the store enables three sales clerks to service customers on both sides.

Stand-alone gondolas made of metal have wheels on them, making them easier to move for cleaning. The see-through racking makes the store look bigger, and employees get a better view of activity on the floor, cutting down theft.
Stand-alone gondolas made of metal have wheels on them, making them easier to move for cleaning. The see-through racking makes the store look bigger, and employees get a better view of activity on the floor, cutting down theft.

While many companies have gone from pegboard to slat wall, GTS-Welco uses 4 ft. sections of wire rack to look more like a retail showroom. The racking in this showroom costs under $2K. Planagrams were used to visualize the layout.

While many companies have gone from pegboard to slat wall, GTS-Welco uses 4 ft. sections of wire rack to look more like a retail showroom. The racking in this showroom costs under $2K. Planagrams were used to visualize the layout.

Compass

Everything is bright in Arco Welding Supply's 1,800 sq. ft. showroom. The old space had 8 lights in the ceiling; now there are 30. People used to rush in the front door of the old store and go directly to the counter in the back, bypassing a lot of product. The counter was placed in the middle of the store, forcing customers to look at the items behind the counter. A TV tuned to CNN or a Red Sox game sets a relaxed mood, and the more comfortable customers are, the more shopping they do.
Everything is bright in Arco Welding Supply’s 1,800 sq. ft. showroom. The old space had 8 lights in the ceiling; now there are 30. People used to rush in the front door of the old store and go directly to the counter in the back, bypassing a lot of product. The counter was placed in the middle of the store, forcing customers to look at the items behind the counter. A TV tuned to CNN or a Red Sox game sets a relaxed mood, and the more comfortable customers are, the more shopping they do.
Gases Plus Warehouse Before
A warehouse layout in a remodeled 2,500 sq. ft. Gases Plus store in Casper, Wyoming, puts the company’s vast inventory directly in front of the customer. Shunning bolt-together shelving, Gases Plus went high-end with vertical pallet rack.
Gases Plus Warehouse After
Purity Cylinder Gases was running out of floor space as it added industrial and safety products. The purchase of the building next door enabled the company to increase the size of its showroom from 4,400 to 9,600 sq. ft. Described as a “mini box store,” everything is now stocked in the showroom that also has a small cylinder exchange area with a wall around it to isolate the clanging sounds.
Purity Cylinder Gases was running out of floor space as it added industrial and safety products. The purchase of the building next door enabled the company to increase the size of its showroom from 4,400 to 9,600 sq. ft. Described as a 'mini box store,' everything is now stocked in the showroom that also has a small cylinder exchange area with a wall around it to isolate the clanging sounds.
Purity Cylinder Gases was running out of floor space as it added industrial and safety products. The purchase of the building next door enabled the company to increase the size of its showroom from 4,400 to 9,600 sq. ft. Described as a 'mini box store,' everything is now stocked in the showroom that also has a small cylinder exchange area with a wall around it to isolate the clanging sounds.
When 800 sq. ft. became available in the building next door, Ravena Welding Supply expanded its showroom and put all welders in one location. President Dave Teator describes the impact of the change: “There’s space for the customer to walk around a welder, lean on it, touch it. No one’s kissed a welder yet, but a few people did kneel down and put their hands on it and say ‘wow, man, this is an awesome machine.’” It’s all about moving merchandise.
When 800 sq. ft. became available in the building next door, Ravena Welding Supply expanded its showroom and put all welders in one location. President Dave Teator describes the impact of the change: “There’s space for the customer to walk around a welder, lean on it, touch it. No one’s kissed a welder yet, but a few people did kneel down and put their hands on it and say ‘wow, man, this is an awesome machine.’” It’s all about moving merchandise.
When 800 sq. ft. became available in the building next door, Ravena Welding Supply expanded its showroom and put all welders in one location. President Dave Teator describes the impact of the change: “There’s space for the customer to walk around a welder, lean on it, touch it. No one’s kissed a welder yet, but a few people did kneel down and put their hands on it and say ‘wow, man, this is an awesome machine.’” It’s all about moving merchandise.

Compass

Very high ceilings open up the Industrial Welding Supply showroom, showcasing a large amount and variety of product. The high ceilings allow for offices on the second floor.
Very high ceilings open up the Industrial Welding Supply showroom, showcasing a large amount and variety of product. The high ceilings allow for offices on the second floor.
Liberty Supply Before
At the advice of his daughter and former retail store manager who called his place a dump, Pete Matarese remodeled his Liberty Supply store in Leominster, Massachusetts. New counters, lighting, flooring and shelving were put into the 1,900 sq. ft. space.
Liberty Supply After
Liberty Supply’s motto is: “We have it; they don’t.” When someone comes in and wants a hard-to-find part, Liberty Supply tells the customer to buy one and Liberty will buy two to put on the shelf. The result: The customer typically returns to purchase other product.
Liberty Supply’s motto is: “We have it; they don’t.” When someone comes in and wants a hard-to-find part, Liberty Supply tells the customer to buy one and Liberty will buy two to put on the shelf. The result: The customer typically returns to purchase other product.
The old shelving at 6 ft. high was tough to see over. Replaced by 4 ft. shelving, the room now appears larger. Customers are more aware of available product, and counter sales have increased by 20%.
The old shelving at 6 ft. high was tough to see over. Replaced by 4 ft. shelving, the room now appears larger. Customers are more aware of available product, and counter sales have increased by 20%.
The first impression customers get when they walk in that first time is going to be the one they remember. They may never come back a second time if the product they are looking for is not there. In the heart of the largest copper mining district in the U.S., Phoenix Welding Supply anticipates inventory needs and custom tailors products to the copper mining business. Every piece of inventory is visible and on display.
The first impression customers get when they walk in that first time is going to be the one they remember. They may never come back a second time if the product they are looking for is not there. In the heart of the largest copper mining district in the U.S., Phoenix Welding Supply anticipates inventory needs and custom tailors products to the copper mining business. Every piece of inventory is visible and on display.
Ceilings are over 20 feet tall, and corporate colors are visible in blue and gray throughout the store.
Ceilings are over 20 feet tall, and corporate colors are visible in blue and gray throughout the store.
Special carts with literature racks on both sides were made for the welding machines located by Metroplex Welding Supply’s front door. The carts, along with the gondolas, are on wheels, making it easier to direct customers to different parts of the 3,000 sq. ft. showroom. A mezzanine holds offices, freeing up floor space for inventory.
Special carts with literature racks on both sides were made for the welding machines located by Metroplex Welding Supply’s front door. The carts, along with the gondolas, are on wheels, making it easier to direct customers to different parts of the 3,000 sq. ft. showroom. A mezzanine holds offices, freeing up floor space for inventory.
A graphic designer gave pointers on the signage hanging from the ceiling. Vendor posters are also on the walls. Aisles are wide. To prevent customers from getting used to a specific route and bypassing product, the gondolas are sometimes moved to funnel customers to a product that is new or needing to sell.
A graphic designer gave pointers on the signage hanging from the ceiling. Vendor posters are also on the walls. Aisles are wide. To prevent customers from getting used to a specific route and bypassing product, the gondolas are sometimes moved to funnel customers to a product that is new or needing to sell.
The open concept of the showroom makes it easier for customers to view other products they may want to purchase, making Metroplex a one-stop shop.
The open concept of the showroom makes it easier for customers to view other products they may want to purchase, making Metroplex a one-stop shop.

The last time Complete Welders Supply remodeled its showroom was 17 years ago and, like most remodeling projects, what started out being a week-long job turned into six weeks. Repainted walls, new counters, slat board, gondolas and diamond-plate flooring in the 1,500 sq. ft. space are now reaping rewards. A flat panel TV with DVD player is hooked up to the four counter terminals. As customers shop or wait, they can view new product videos. A swing arm on the panel allows it to be turned so customers can view part breakdowns on the screen. The last time Complete Welders Supply remodeled its showroom was 17 years ago and, like most remodeling projects, what started out being a week-long job turned into six weeks. Repainted walls, new counters, slat board, gondolas and diamond-plate flooring in the 1,500 sq. ft. space are now reaping rewards. A flat panel TV with DVD player is hooked up to the four counter terminals. As customers shop or wait, they can view new product videos. A swing arm on the panel allows it to be turned so customers can view part breakdowns on the screen.
The last time Complete Welders Supply remodeled its showroom was 17 years ago and, like most remodeling projects, what started out being a week-long job turned into six weeks. Repainted walls, new counters, slat board, gondolas and diamond-plate flooring in the 1,500 sq. ft. space are now reaping rewards. A flat panel TV with DVD player is hooked up to the four counter terminals. As customers shop or wait, they can view new product videos. A swing arm on the panel allows it to be turned so customers can view part breakdowns on the screen.
AWISCO was the winner of a recent Thermal Dynamics display contest conducted by Thermadyne. Distributors were invited to participate in a showroom display contest in conjunction with the launch of the Cutmaster True Series plasma cutting systems. The marketing idea for the campaign came out of the realization that end-users needed to better understand up-front the true capacity of the plasma system they were buying. Talking points are outlined in the display materials.
AWISCO was the winner of a recent Thermal Dynamics display contest conducted by Thermadyne. Distributors were invited to participate in a showroom display contest in conjunction with the launch of the Cutmaster True Series plasma cutting systems. The marketing idea for the campaign came out of the realization that end-users needed to better understand up-front the true capacity of the plasma system they were buying. Talking points are outlined in the display materials.
Airgas Southwest stores are adding a “Safety Zone” to highlight safety-related products, including hard hats, glasses, gloves, fall protection equipment and more. This Safety Zone floor space in the Airgas store in Austin, Texas, was in part responsible for a 44% year over year increase in retail sales of safety-related items, according to Joel Jaeger, safety sales leader for Airgas Southwest. The stores are also adding a “Construction Zone” for similar products.
Airgas Southwest stores are adding a “Safety Zone” to highlight safety-related products, including hard hats, glasses, gloves, fall protection equipment and more. This Safety Zone floor space in the Airgas store in Austin, Texas, was in part responsible for a 44% year over year increase in retail sales of safety-related items, according to Joel Jaeger, safety sales leader for Airgas Southwest. The stores are also adding a “Construction Zone” for similar products.
After Rockford Industrial Welding Supply purchased a distributorship in Peru, Illinois, a wall was knocked down and replaced with windows, making the building look bigger and more inviting. People driving by can now see what is inside. Rockford prefers to locate its stores at an intersection with traffic, rather than an industrial park. A large marquis out front advertises a variety of products, just to get people in the door, people who are not the base customer but who may know someone that is. Since opening this store, walk-in trade has tripled, and on some days up to 110 people walk in and purchase something.
After Rockford Industrial Welding Supply purchased a distributorship in Peru, Illinois, a wall was knocked down and replaced with windows, making the building look bigger and more inviting. People driving by can now see what is inside. Rockford prefers to locate its stores at an intersection with traffic, rather than an industrial park. A large marquis out front advertises a variety of products, just to get people in the door, people who are not the base customer but who may know someone that is. Since opening this store, walk-in trade has tripled, and on some days up to 110 people walk in and purchase something.

After Rockford Industrial Welding Supply purchased a distributorship in Peru, Illinois, a wall was knocked down and replaced with windows, making the building look bigger and more inviting. People driving by can now see what is inside. Rockford prefers to locate its stores at an intersection with traffic, rather than an industrial park. A large marquis out front advertises a variety of products, just to get people in the door, people who are not the base customer but who may know someone that is. Since opening this store, walk-in trade has tripled, and on some days up to 110 people walk in and purchase something.
More than 4,000 different items are in Rockford’s Peru store, which is 40 x 50 ft. Co-op dollars were used to purchase neon signage. As customers drive by, the neon stands out. It also focuses shoppers on product.
More than 4,000 different items are in Rockford’s Peru store, which is 40 x 50 ft. Co-op dollars were used to purchase neon signage. As customers drive by, the neon stands out. It also focuses shoppers on product.
Organization is the mantra at Red Ball Oxygen’s store in Alexandria, Louisiana. The remodel took five months, and everything was changed except the ceiling tiles. Customers have access to all product and are reminded of the company name wherever they look.

Compass

Organization is the mantra at Red Ball Oxygen’s store in Alexandria, Louisiana. The remodel took five months, and everything was changed except the ceiling tiles. Customers have access to all product and are reminded of the company name wherever they look.
Organization is the mantra at Red Ball Oxygen’s store in Alexandria, Louisiana. The remodel took five months, and everything was changed except the ceiling tiles. Customers have access to all product and are reminded of the company name wherever they look.
Organization is the mantra at Red Ball Oxygen’s store in Alexandria, Louisiana. The remodel took five months, and everything was changed except the ceiling tiles. Customers have access to all product and are reminded of the company name wherever they look.

Real estate agents say if you want to get a better value for your home, do the inexpensive cosmetic upgrades. That applies to commercial buildings too. Floor covering and new paint on walls can be done at low cost and can make a huge difference in imaging. At Norco’s store in Meridian, Idaho, bright white walls, 10 ft. high ceilings and a variety of products are on hand. A modern touch is the use of light boxes—backlit pictures showing products in use, i.e., an individual in a wheelchair going along a trail or someone welding a vehicle.
Real estate agents say if you want to get a better value for your home, do the inexpensive cosmetic upgrades. That applies to commercial buildings too. Floor covering and new paint on walls can be done at low cost and can make a huge difference in imaging. At Norco’s store in Meridian, Idaho, bright white walls, 10 ft. high ceilings and a variety of products are on hand. A modern touch is the use of light boxes—backlit pictures showing products in use, i.e., an individual in a wheelchair going along a trail or someone welding a vehicle.

Cylinders and flowering plants grace the entrance to AWESCO’s showroom in Albany, New York.
Cylinders and flowering plants grace the entrance to AWESCO’s showroom in Albany, New York.
When Mahany Welding Supply built a new store, President Mike Krupnicki believed customers would be willing to pay a better dollar for products if the environment looked more like a “Lexus dealership than a used car lot.” So he painted the walls a tan, warm earth-tone color and accented the space with black and silver for the industrial look. Ceilings in the 35 x 35 ft. showroom are 19 ft. high. Floors are ceramic. Krupnicki chose not to pack the showroom full of product. Spaces between the hooks provide a gallery appearance and glossy black paint in the slat inserts give a high-tech look.
When Mahany Welding Supply built a new store, President Mike Krupnicki believed customers would be willing to pay a better dollar for products if the environment looked more like a “Lexus dealership than a used car lot.” So he painted the walls a tan, warm earth-tone color and accented the space with black and silver for the industrial look. Ceilings in the 35 x 35 ft. showroom are 19 ft. high. Floors are ceramic. Krupnicki chose not to pack the showroom full of product. Spaces between the hooks provide a gallery appearance and glossy black paint in the slat inserts give a high-tech look.
Little bit of welding supply showroom, little bit of art gallery. Metal sculpture provided by local artisans hang on walls, rest on floors, and even hold product at Mahany Welding Supply. Some of the artwork is bartered for, most of it is given by customers, making the store a destination to view new artwork. And while there, they make purchases. Custom-made showroom gondolas on casters provide flexibility. Employees are proud to work in this store, whose first year results were four times better than the company’s other location.
Little bit of welding supply showroom, little bit of art gallery. Metal sculpture provided by local artisans hang on walls, rest on floors, and even hold product at Mahany Welding Supply. Some of the artwork is bartered for, most of it is given by customers, making the store a destination to view new artwork. And while there, they make purchases. Custom-made showroom gondolas on casters provide flexibility. Employees are proud to work in this store, whose first year results were four times better than the company’s other location.
Indiana Oxygen works hard to keep the environment interesting for customers. Hanging on the wall throughout the store are poster-size black and white photographs portraying the company’s history since its founding in 1915. The photos are changed out occasionally. Also prominent are plaques and awards the company has received, along with recognition of employee ideas. These all show customers the commitment Indiana Oxygen has to the community, to the industry, and to excellence. Occasionally the branch manager puts out something impractical, like a display of hammers to catch the eye of customers and to project the idea that things are always changing.
Indiana Oxygen works hard to keep the environment interesting for customers. Hanging on the wall throughout the store are poster-size black and white photographs portraying the company’s history since its founding in 1915. The photos are changed out occasionally. Also prominent are plaques and awards the company has received, along with recognition of employee ideas. These all show customers the commitment Indiana Oxygen has to the community, to the industry, and to excellence. Occasionally the branch manager puts out something impractical, like a display of hammers to catch the eye of customers and to project the idea that things are always changing.
Indiana Oxygen is very involved with the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard races. An Indy car that raced in the 500 attracts a lot of attention when it is in the showroom.
Indiana Oxygen is very involved with the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard races. An Indy car that raced in the 500 attracts a lot of attention when it is in the showroom.
Customers call P & M Welding Supply's 4, 000 sq. ft. store in Davie, Florida, “the candy store” because of the variety of available products. Every style and model of welding machine sold is on the showroom floor, along with 20 to 30 different models of gloves, 4 different kinds of blankets and various helmets. All available to be picked up, held…and purchased. Says President Marcos Mau, “We cater to the guy who wants one thing and will walk away with several.”
Customers call P & M Welding Supply’s 4, 000 sq. ft. store in Davie, Florida, “the candy store” because of the variety of available products. Every style and model of welding machine sold is on the showroom floor, along with 20 to 30 different models of gloves, 4 different kinds of blankets and various helmets. All available to be picked up, held…and purchased. Says President Marcos Mau, “We cater to the guy who wants one thing and will walk away with several.”
Rotating product is kept on end-caps and the center of the counter. Merchandise is displayed at a level accessible to the customer, and lighting is bright in every area of the showroom. Eighty percent of the items are bar-coded.
Rotating product is kept on end-caps and the center of the counter. Merchandise is displayed at a level accessible to the customer, and lighting is bright in every area of the showroom. Eighty percent of the items are bar-coded.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association