2021 Fred Case Award Finalist: Retail Synergies

DeForest and Cathy Winslow merged backgrounds in homebuilding and retail to create a Georgia showroom where small-ticket items lead to remodels over time.

authors Patrick O'Toole | October 13, 2021

Splash Kitchens & Baths is not your typical remodeling showroom because it mixes the construction background of DeForest Winslow, a former custom homebuilder, with the retailing acumen of his wife Cathy.

When homebuilding hit the skids in 2008, the duo pivoted to remodeling, seeking to open a showroom in their hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, with a population of 70,000.

Before opening Splash, the Winslows conducted extensive showroom research. Their view was that a traditional showroom would not be the right fit for the people they knew in LaGrange.

After a period of brainstorming, they settled on an unusual concept. In addition to kitchen and bath displays, they would also offer home-goods as a get-to-know-you purchase.

“Retail was our strategy to drive traffic to the showroom in a non-threatening, uninhibited way so that people could come in and browse and feel comfortable buying a $10 candle,” Cathy says. “At the same time, people could get to know us and our style, so we could build up personal relationships, which is critical.”

A person stepping off Broad St. to enter Splash today typically feels the hominess right away. The reaction of a 7-year-old boy visiting with his parents encapsulates the feeling. As the family was leaving, he told Cathy Winslow that he “liked her house.” She took it as a great compliment.

At Splash, visitors can expect to find barware, glassware, serving pieces and jewelry from local artisans, along with a host of recently added jellies, jams, cheeses and spices. They are presently looking to add lighting fixtures and furniture.

The success of the Winslows’ concept, which is continually evolving, is very in keeping with previous Fred Case Award finalists, and the results speak for themselves. Last year, the kitchen and bath design firm booked over $2 million in combined retail and remodeling activity, with the retail portion accounting for approximately 15 percent of the total.

More Retail to Grow Remodels

A display at Splash Kitchens & Baths that doubles as a home-goods retail offering. It is a successful strategy where a series of small retail transactions help build relationships for remodeling projects.

For the 14 years that the Winslows have operated Splash, they’ve known their mixing of retail was having the intended desired effect, but they could not quantify the impact with any great precision. A friend of a friend who purchased a countertop spray cleaner at Splash and buy some of the spray cleaner and get inspired by quartz countertops or a cabinet display.

“We have a lot of those kinds of stories,” DeForest says. “We’ve got dozens of stories of how a $25 candle converted to a $500 accessory purchase, which then converted to a $50,000 bathroom or kitchen. Approximately 25 to 50 percent of our annual project production is a result of the relationship building that we’ve experienced over time.”

Up until three years ago, home goods were the extent of the retail offering at Splash. At that point, retail sales had plateaued and so had foot traffic. To drive more repeat visitors for items that would run out and need to be replaced (like the countertop spray), the Winslows ramped up their offering to include popular consumables and food items.

“We added a gourmet section that has mostly dry goods, high-end seasonings, cheese and jams,” DeForest explains. “We put in two double freezers and a refrigerator. So now we’ve got local, home-based businesses from this region producing pies, casseroles, yogurt and dips. At Cathy’s suggestion, we stocked one display near the checkout counter with 5 feet of decorative jewelry.”

The bigger offering worked. Foot traffic grew from approximately 2,000 customers per year to 3,000 customers per year. Retail sales grew 35 percent. And most significantly, the remodeling is seeing more and bigger jobs.

“When a customer comes in, and once they’re greeted, we explain to them that we’re sort of two-fold,” Cathy says. “We have retail and inspiration, and then we have a design studio. That’s when we can swap out their experience based on if they’re looking for retail, or if they’re looking for a remodel.” QR

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