The second phase of the roadmap to unlocking from this third lockdown, the reopening of non-essential retail and the reopening of showrooms, is still on track for April 12th. This will be the second major step in the roadmap and will see larger sections of the UK economy opened up.

For fenestration, this is perhaps the biggest step forward in the whole programme of measures.

Showrooms in England finally reopen

For fenestration showrooms in England, this will be the first time in almost a third of an entire year that they will be open to the public. Well, the ones that were following the rules and guidance anyway.

From April 12th, glazing showrooms in England can reopen to the public but must adhere to continued social distancing guidance and maintain thorough cleaning and sanitisation procedures. For homeowners who have been sitting on the fence or waiting to see products up close before they place an order this will be their chance to perhaps make a decision to buy. As with many big-ticket items, sections of the public still wish to see, even briefly, the product that they’re buying prior to purchasing. Even if it is just to reassure themselves that it’s the right choice.

Face masks will continue to be required, as well as the now well-practised cleaning routines and social distancing. One thing that does appear to be changing however is the promise that by June 21st all COVID measures will be removed. There were major hints on Monday that mask-wearing and social distancing will be required for much of the year. So what our freedoms might look like do seem to be changing as we progress further down the roadmap.

The future for showrooms

Whilst the reopening of showrooms will be welcomed by installers, I have had a number of conversations privately with businesses who are beginning to question whether a showroom is now so important.

It’s a valid query to make, considering that minus the use of showrooms, installers have never been busier. Many are well over three months ahead in pre-booked work. Leads flooding in and sales being made almost without trying. All done without a showroom. Digital assets such as websites, PDF brochures, social media, virtual showrooms and videos have all made the job of selling for installers a lot easier. Yes, there are some who will still like to see a product up close first, but there is clearly a large enough proportion of the public happy enough to buy with the current crop of selling methods and without needing to use the showroom.

Showrooms cost money, they require staff and most importantly right now, time. Installers have been very adaptable in the current conditions for the past year, and find themselves at the sharp end of a boom that shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, the problem now seems to be keeping on top of the amount of business coming in, rather than generating anything new.

So is it perhaps time for a rethink on the purpose of a showroom. Rather than it being used as a lead generator or a place to try and win business. It may be that it becomes part of a more generic marketing strategy. For example, it could be the setting for more video content to be made. The guys at Heath Windows in Wales have been doing a very good job of that and have been getting good results. Creating virtual versions of the showroom, with clickable hotspots which expand to show more information or videos has also proved successful. Perhaps run them by appointment-only. I know some do this already, but others don’t. It will be a good way to attract more serious buyers and create a more personal touch for those that may have already been quoted but want something a bit more personal and exclusive to themselves.

I think in a post-COVID era the showroom will play a different role. It still has a part to play, but I think how we use them and utilise them is going to change from this point on.

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