The industry is buzzing with talk about an e-mail that hit inboxes earlier this week — a message about a newly formed movement dubbed Brick & Mortar Lighting.
The campaign is being driven by long-time brick-and-mortar showroom owners, and they want to accomplish one thing — take online sales and bring them back to physical lighting stores.
The founder of Brick & Mortar Lighting is a retailer who would like to remain anonymous. His job, he says, is just to make sure the message gets out. “It’s about all of the brick-and-mortar showrooms, not me.”
The movement's roots began with him, though. As he was walking his dog the night before trash day, he saw a large chandelier box next to his neighbor’s garbage cans. He inspected the box and realized that his lighting showroom didn’t provide the chandelier to the neighbor, but that it came from a major lighting.com.
“It was a vendor that we carried, a vendor that we supported, and it was a neighbor that knew I was in the lighting business,” the founder says. “And that neighbor still chose to buy that chandelier online. I went into the office the next morning and found that we could’ve actually given it to him for a cheaper price than he paid for it online. The whole thing started to burn with me.”
What the founder discovered after a few Internet searches is that many lighting vendors are making it very easy for consumers to buy their products online from one of several national lighting e-tailers. When a shopper visits certain manufacturers’ sites and drills down to a specific product, he will see a description, some photos, and a “Buy Online” button, which directs him to a lighting.com site to make the purchase.
The founder shared this information with fellow lighting showroom owners and said many had no idea it was happening. It left them all wondering how vendors could do this to the stores “that have supported them year after year.”
The fire was fueled and the group started researching, says the founder. It determined that 12 to 15 percent of all lighting is purchased online.
“We started looking deeper and also found that a majority of those online lighting sales are made by less than a half a dozen lighting.coms, and one of them is actually owned by Lowe’s,” he says. “So these lighting vendors are indirectly supporting Lowe’s and the brick-and-mortars are out here standing in the wind, despite the fact that we’ve stocked the product, shown the product, serviced the product, you name it.”
And so Brick & Mortar Lighting was born in May 2013, after frustration came to a head. Its supporters, which the founder says already measure into the hundreds, are asking lighting manufacturers to remove the “Buy Online” buttons from their websites. Or, alternatively, the founder says, these vendors should also include a “Buy Online Local” button that directs to local showrooms with online stores. The group is also suggesting that vendors stop drop shipping outside of their market areas.
The founder says that the Brick & Mortar Lighting movement is necessary because there’s never been a unified voice on this matter, but he also wants to make it clear that the group is not trying to threaten or boycott vendors.
“Our mission is not to strong-arm them. What we’re trying to do is get them to reconsider. We believe that if they do reconsider they’ll see those sales that were going to lightinguniverse.com will now come to our brick-and-mortar showrooms and they’ll still make those sales — they’ll just be directed from different channels.”
To get the campaign message out, Brick & Mortar Lighting supporters distributed window decals to all of their “approved” lighting vendors — those that don’t facilitate purchases through lighting.coms — to display at the upcoming Dallas Intl. Lighting Market, June 20-23. A full list of these vendors is available here.
The founder says that although he doesn’t have any idea where this movement will be a year from now, it was time to take a stand.
“Brick-and-mortar showrooms are real places,” he says. “We’re a part of America. We support Little Leagues and churches and charities and pay taxes. Vendors need to realize this.”
To learn more about Brick & Mortar Lighting, visit www.brickandmortarlighting.com.