The winners of the fifth annual Showroom of the Year Awards were announced at a Dallas Intl. Lighting Market opening night cocktail reception on June 18. The awards were sponsored by Residential Lighting and Dallas Market Center.
One Showroom of the Year was named in each of three dollar-volume categories (annual revenue under $2 million, revenue under $5 million, and $5 million and over) from a field of 10 finalists in that category. All finalists were also eligible for three specialty awards, including Outstanding Merchandising Display, Exceptional Community Involvement and Social Media Star.
Judges for this year’s awards were Linda Cahan, a Retail Design Consultant for Cahan and Co.; Leslie Carothers, CEO, The Kaleidoscope Partnership; and Brian Moran, founder/CEO, Brian Moran & Assoc.
The winners were:
Revenue Under $2 Million: Living Lighting on King, Toronto, ON, Canada
Revenue Under $5 Million: Dulles Electric, Sterling, VA
Revenue $5 Million and Over: Yale Appliance + Lighting, Boston
Outstanding Merchandising Display: Design Lighting, Surrey, BC, Canada
Exceptional Community Involvement: Accent Lighting, Lake Oswego, OR
Social Media Star: Progressive Lighting, Atlanta
Living Lighting on King was last year’s winner in the Under $2 Million category and also earned a specialty award the previous year. This 4,500-square-foot showroom opened in 2005 and describes itself as a fashionably styled boutique with some of the most creative merchandising in the industry. The approach to merchandising is to create concepts instead of vignettes, resulting in award-winning displays. The store's "Once Upon a Dream" booth at this year’s Interior Design Show in Toronto sparked a social media frenzy and even brought three attendees to tears. The staff, called Lighting Ninjas, are passionate about creating a memorable shopping experience for customers.
Judge's comments included, "While several stores have beautiful, well thought out, well merchandised displays, only Living Lighting on King was going beyond the concept of lighting and tying in the world of fashion, dreams and the imagination to help her customers see how lighting could be part of a customer’s overall style and fashion footprint within their home or offices. She helps her customers see how lighting can not just be used as lighting but as an element of creative, artistic expression. Brilliant!"
Dulles Electric opened in 2008. At 12,000 square feet, it's the Mid-Atlantic’s largest lighting showroom. It has the nation’s largest Schonbek crystal gallery; is the exclusive Swarovski lighting dealer in the greater D.C. area; and also has the D.C. region’s only Visual Comfort gallery. Staff members are ALA-trained Lighting Specialists and the three in-house lighting designers each have more than 15 years of experience. Dulles launched a new website in September 2013 that enables customers to shop online and view inventory -- this has created a 44 percent increase in traffic. The showroom also features a state-of-the-art experience center featuring a whole-house dimming system and other lighting applications.
Judge's comments included, "There is a warmth that shines in your employees that carries throughout the store. It ‘feels’ good. There’s an elegance in some areas that works perfectly with the merchandise on display."
Yale Appliance + Lighting, which has been open since 1923, has 30,000 overall square feet with 15,000 of that devoted to lighting. The store recognizes that consumers are emotional buyers when it comes to lighting and puts lighting in real-life environments with appropriate music (or sounds) to accompany these displays. Smells enhance the experience, from lemongrass to warm chocolate chip cookies. Positive reviews on Google and Yelp enhance the store’s reputation. It has more than 7,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz combined, and its appliance and lighting blogs reached 1.5 million people in 2013. Yale's Resource Center contains more than 25 Buying Guides that educate clients on different product categories before they buy. These have been read by more than 50,000 people. The store also has a culture of transparency, creating a sense of ownership among employees and an understanding of everyone’s role in the company’s bottom line health and sustainability. Lastly, customer retention is key. A survey follows every customer interaction with a scale of 1 to 5. Any grade lower than 5 receives follow-up attention from management.
Judge's comments included, "I approached Yale as a customer and a designer and found it easy to shop, inspirational and great to look at."
Design Lighting, a 26,000-square-foot showroom, opened in 2009. Its motto is "Uniquely placed to capture the individual’s eye." The showroom takes a design-oriented approach to merchandising to help customers imagine fixtures in their own homes. It has a huge selection, but takes care to display options in a way that is never overwhelming to customers. The design center features a full living room, dining room and kitchen and offers a comfortable atmosphere for clients to view lighting in home-like environments and is updated frequently to stay current. Home decor products dress up the showroom and enable customers to make design choices in one stop, and Design Lighting is the only showroom in British Columbia that offers a completely interactive home and outdoor landscape lighting setting. Located in a separate room, the landscaping center shows outdoor product in a night sky environment to illuminate various landscaped areas.
Judge's comments included, "The way their showroom is set up is in well styled, well designed vignettes, kitchens, living rooms etc. that were fully but not overly merchandised, allowing a customer to see clearly the various types of lighting that should and could be used in a room and for specific effects."
Accent Lighting has been family-operated since 1996 and is approximately 5,000 square feet. The store makes giving back part of its business. A lighting consultant volunteers at two community colleges, presenting lectures to interior design students on lighting applications and trends, and many employees contribute both time and money to charities the store is involved with. Charities supported include: Equine Rescue of Bend, OR, run 100 percent by volunteers and donations, which cares for more than 100 abused, neglected and orphaned horses; Ronald McDonald House charities of Oregon and Southwest Washington, which provide a home away from home for families with seriously ill children; and at Lake Oswego High School, where the store supports the dance team and girls lacrosse team every year.
Judge's comments included, "I really like how they didn’t just tell me about their charitable contributions; they showed me how they do it. They told me about their charities and they get their clients involved, too. Well done!"
Progressive Lighting is a 24,000-square-foot store opened in 2008. It engages customers via social media, not just to drive sales but to create community. Facebook and Twitter are used to educate customers on the everyday facets of lighting, lighting hardware, installation and lighting design. The store is creating a community forum to share success stories and hurdles, and provides helpful links to how-to resources for do-it-yourselfers and information about government legislation. There is also a series of educational eBooks on a variety of topics in the works that will be available to users free of charge. Progressive also uses social media to promote employees’ personal victories and to share community efforts, like giving back to charities.
Judge's comments included: "By sharing information and ideas and not just plugging the latest sale, this store’s social media platforms are a true resource."
Read all about the Showroom of the Year finalists in our April issue.