We all know and love our ovens, dishwashers, clothes washers and
dryers and how could we live without that microwave? But do you
know what a “specialty” appliance is, and what it could mean to
In a recent conversation with Paul Zugschwert of All, Inc. in
Minneapolis, I realized just how important these niche products can
be for developing new ways to get customers into your showroom.
By definition, a specialty appliance is one that we love to
show, display and present. They might not be among the
highest-volume sellers in your showroom, however. But, according to
Zugschwert, specialty appliance sales can still be high quality
because of their higher profit margin and potential for add-on
“Specialty appliances go beyond the average cappuccino machine,”
Zugschwert explains. “This group of products extends to include
modern conveniences like the steam oven, and appliances with
features never before seen or experienced by most consumers.”
One such recent product, which has drawn considerable consumer
interest at demonstration events, is the “Advantium” oven by
General Electric. This specialty appliance features “speedcook
technology,” a cooking process that uses light to deliver fast,
flavorful results a convenience that interests busy modern
Even if you don’t offer such products for sale, it can be
beneficial to work at least one into your showroom displays.
You may ask here: Why go through all the trouble if you don’t
benefit from selling the products? First of all, specialty
appliances are great conversation pieces. They are terrific for
marketing efforts, specifically in-house demonstration events.
Consider hosting a Saturday gathering that centers around a
specialty appliance. Plan to invite 200 or so prospective or
existing customers by direct-mail special invitation. Can’t you
think of at least 30 people who would come to your showroom to see,
smell and taste the rewards of such a great kitchen innovation?
Remember, consumers are curious creatures. Even if they do not
plan to buy the item, they usually want to become familiar with new
features and gadgets. The right “carrot” might interest them enough
to come through your door to learn more. Want proof? Just go to a
Best Buy on any given weekend and observe the volume of consumers
“test driving” the latest options.
The kitchen and bath industry sometimes perceived as ho-hum by
consumers desiring new, exciting, space-age products stands to
benefit greatly from new products that get the consumer talking.
Specialty appliances are one category that stirs their interest.
Trend-savvy consumers love to share their firsthand experiences
with cutting-edge products in conversations at social events. Such
exposure can be good for your business if the specialty item was
seen at your showroom.
Along with the value of visually merchandising specialty
appliances in your showroom comes the value of procuring positive
public relations for your business. Basically, what this means is
low-cost marketing for your hard-cost investments. To seize public
relations opportunities and boost business with specialty
appliances, consider having a product rep or expert demonstrate the
product for an event some Saturday.
I attended a showroom event recently where experts provided
advice about, and samples from, an Advantium oven, a cappuccino
machine and a steam oven! I must admit feeling a bit envious when
food at the 6 p.m. event was a higher priority than my drawer
glides or finishes. In addition, I found my product came in second
to the more unusual specialty appliances. Thankfully, it all worked
out in the end. Many of those people stayed and milled around the
showroom for hours. I waited my turn and, with their hunger
satisfied, consumers listened more intently and longer.
Among the many benefits of displaying specialty appliances are the
- Increased exposure with consumers. You want to get homeowners
out of the house and shopping. Specialty appliances provide a
reason for consumers to come to you instead of simply waiting for
inspiration or worse, going to your competitor. This kind of
display can build referrals.
- Sales add-ons. New customers may come to your business with one
goal in mind: to see new, unusual products. Once they are there,
they can see all the other great items they had not previously
considered. How many of us have closed a large remodeling sale with
a smile after the consumer came in saying, “We only need a new sink
- A natural public relations vehicle. Newspapers are known to
make headlines over things that people are talking about. Perhaps
your (or another colleague’s or customer’s) suggestion to a media
contact could land your business in the “Lifestyles” section of
your local paper. Keep in mind, marketing is more than just
advertising, and this type of marketing is needed even more within
a tight economy.
- Target marketing ability. Specialty product displays allow you
to focus events and marketing for a select group. Home enthusiasts
are energized through the education you provide.
- Food as a draw. Kitchen products and food go hand-in-hand.
Consider teaming up with a local catering team that would
appreciate having an opportunity to show off their skills on your
- Added pizazz for your business and staple products. Often the
excitement of actually experiencing a new product “that makes
such-and-such” is lost in a mundane, technical description. So,
don’t just tell show! If people have to be there to understand and
appreciate, invite the public to stop in and see for
- A fun purchasing experience. Flavored coffees and teas are a
way to welcome the consumer. Offering a complimentary coffee with
an irresistible aroma is a great icebreaker that also allows you to
demonstrate an appliance.
Of course, to take full advantage of specialty product appeal, it’s
important to place them effectively, for maximum impact and
exposure within your showroom.
One solution is to place the unit at the end of a run or in such
a way that gathering can occur in a semi-circle. Think about other
products that should be strategically displayed nearby. If
possible, it makes good sense to situate top-selling favorites in
the immediate area for observers who disperse after the
Don’t stop at simply installing a cooking unit in a cabinet,
however. Make sure it is fully operational. When not in use, keep
the light on with a prop turkey in a roasting pan inside. The
“pretend” food can be replaced with the real deal to entice
shoppers during peak “learning” times. The smell of savory cooking
will call people to follow their noses, but also be sure
ventilation issues are addressed and that your solution meets local
It’s always best if specialty appliances are included in a
working kitchen display that has a system in place for preparation
and clean-up. In any case, keep the area clean. Clutter and
unappealing, old food are turn offs. Remember to plan trash
management for all those toothpicks, napkins and drink cups. While
the waste area should be easily found and accessed, it’s neither
necessary nor tasteful to situate the receptacle center stage. Try
to have it close by, but not in the middle of the walkway. If
there’s no good place for it, conceal the discarded contents
beneath a swinging lid easy to access, but not easily seen.
Most importantly, when hosting a demonstration, become an expert
on the product being touted. Make sure you and your staff receive
ample training, not only about its specifications and features, but
also about how to use the item. Then, when you’re asked questions
your interested customers’ cue for you to show them more you’re
ready to spring into action. Consider keeping a few quick-cooking,
good-smelling and great-tasting dishes on hand in the freezer.
And, remember, you may sell only a few specialty appliances, but
don’t be disappointed. The goal is to grow your image and sales in
all categories. Put on your marketing cap and start planning.
What will your carrot be?.