Ferguson opens flagship showroom that doubles as national training center

Company’s newest showroom features 9,950 sq. ft. of displays, a 1,100 sq. ft. outdoor working kitchen and plans to educate associates.

The fact that Ferguson Enterprises decided to open up a new showroom could be treated as old news. After all, the company already operates more than 280 showrooms throughout the country. So what’s so newsworthy about this latest one?

Actually, there is an interesting difference with the new 15,000 sq. ft. facility opened recently on the distributor’s Newport News, Va., corporate campus. Walk past the opulent displays of plumbing, lighting and appliances, and you’ll find a training center large enough for about 30 Ferguson associates.

Soon, the room will be filled with associates from many of those other Ferguson showrooms for additional showroom training.

“We plan to bring in different levels of associates to train them on sales profits, customer service, new product launches and other important categories to run a showroom,” explained Brittney Hopkins, showroom trainer and brand ambassador.

One of the first types of training at the new site will be a “train the trainer” to help improve learning throughout the showroom network. The second class will focus on the sales process within the showroom as well as customer service. 

“We have always had a training curriculum in place for all the positions within a showroom,” Hopkins added. “That’s something we feel strongly about, and we will still rely on our showroom mangers and our district training staff to do face-to-face training,” Hopkins added. “But when we have the opportunity to bring our associates in to this new showroom and training center, we will.”

By this summer, Hopkins said the company plans to have a set schedule throughout the year for associates to attend in conjunction with regular national sales meeting that Ferguson runs, in which as many as 300 associates may attend over the course of a few days of meetings while at the distributor’s headquarters.

“The beauty of having this training facility is that it is a little bit smaller, so we will be able to break the training up into, say, beginner, intermediate and advanced stages,” she said.

Also in the works for the new site is what Hopkins describes as “snack-sized” training, a new word for us, but something Hopkins says is a growing trend in personnel training. What Hopkins is talking about is essentially short, concentrated videos that will be filmed at the new showroom and can then be presented through the company’s Intranet or by means of other traditional audio and visual devices.

“Associates want smaller amounts of information more frequently,” Hopkins explained. By way of example, she mentioned the prevalence of YouTube videos that explain a common household DIY project that explain the steps to take in a reasonably short video rather than the traditional route that forced consumers to page through a boring set of printed instructions.

“Video is something new that we're incorporating into existing training,” Hopkins added. “We're layering these short videos on, say, a one-minute module explaining the differences in faucet styles with other longer, recorded presentations.”

All this visual training will become part of what company calls the Ferguson Learning Center. “We will present a wide variety of content,” she said. “It's not just video.”

Of course, the great thing about having a showroom double as a training center is attendees can walk out of the training room and be in front of a lot of product.

“We can using the showroom to role play and do a deep dive into product information,” Hopkins added. 

Showroom Details

Inside, the building has 9,950 sq. ft. of dedicated showroom space with the remainder largely used for sales and administrative purposes.

“Since we’re adjacent to corporate campus, we did build this new showroom to be something of a flagship store,” said Kate Bailey, national director of showrooms.  “But we have also taken care to have it be very reflective of our national footprint. While it is new and beautiful and state of the art, it holds true to what we do at all of our showrooms.”

Still, there are a couple of distinctions at the Newport News showroom that are slightly different and may point the way for the other showrooms to incorporate.

Product Groups: Generally, speaking the showroom is sectioned in three parts for plumbing, lighting and appliances. Take a closer look and the product displays have a subtle difference.

“Because we've had the luxury of designing the showroom from scratch, we've taken care to really keep the customer in mind,” Bailey explained. “So we grouped products perhaps a little differently than we have in the past, which is more grouped in a way that we believe customers buy. As a result, they're grouped by product type, or category or trend.”

Digital Screens: When customers walk in the front , they are greeted by a digital wall. Also, in other parts of the showroom, are other digital screens to display more product content.

Outdoor kitchen: Outside, is a working 1,100 sq. ft. outdoor kitchen that serves as a display, but that can also be used for corporate and customer parties.

“We do see a trend toward outdoor kitchens, and interestingly enough, it really spans geography,” Bailey added. “It’s natural to think that only warmer climates lend themselves to outdoor kitchens, but buyers in all markets are embracing this outdoor living concept.”

Of course, the showroom has other displays most customers have come to expect, such as working showers and faucets and plenty of lighting products lit and hanging above the showroom. The company, however, is trying something different for lighting by bringing some of displays down to eye-level along the walls to better appreciate the details of the fixtures.

In all, while the showroom may double as a training center, Hopkins also thinks it triples as the company’s commitment to the showroom channel. 

“The showroom gives us a great opportunity to allow our vendors and special guests who come to visit us at our headquarters to tour a showroom that represents our current showroom brand,” Bailey explained. “It's something we can be proud of, and when we talk about all our other showrooms around the country, we've got a great example right here in our backyard.”

One of the first types of training at the new site will be a “train the trainer” to help improve learning throughout the showroom network. The second class will focus on the sales process within the showroom as well as customer service. 

“We have always had a training curriculum in place for all the positions within a showroom,” Hopkins added. “That’s something we feel strongly about, and we will still rely on our showroom mangers and our district training staff to do face-to-face training,” Hopkins added. “But when we have the opportunity to bring our associates in to this new showroom and training center, we will.”

By this summer, Hopkins said the company plans to have a set schedule throughout the year for associates to attend in conjunction with regular national sales meeting that Ferguson runs, in which as many as 300 associates may attend over the course of a few days of meetings while at the distributor’s headquarters.

“The beauty of having this training facility is that it is a little bit smaller, so we will be able to break the training up into, say, beginner, intermediate and advanced stages,” she said.

Also in the works for the new site is what Hopkins describes as “snack-sized” training, a new word for us, but something Hopkins says is a growing trend in personnel training. What Hopkins is talking about is essentially short, concentrated videos that will be filmed at the new showroom and can then be presented through the company’s Intranet or by means of other traditional audio and visual devices.

“Associates want smaller amounts of information more frequently,” Hopkins explained. By way of example, she mentioned the prevalence of YouTube videos that explain a common household DIY project that explain the steps to take in a reasonably short video rather than the traditional route that forced consumers to page through a boring set of printed instructions.

“Video is something new that we’re incorporating into existing training,” Hopkins added. “We’re layering these short videos on, say, a one-minute module explaining the differences in faucet styles with other longer, recorded presentations.”

All this visual training will become part of what company calls the Ferguson Learning Center. “We will present a wide variety of content,” she said. “It’s not just video.”

Of course, the great thing about having a showroom double as a training center is attendees can walk out of the training room and be in front of a lot of product.

“We can use the showroom to role play and do a deep dive into product information,” Hopkins added. 

Category: 
Content Type: 
Feature
Issue: