When we first approached the Dallas Market Center team about partnering to produce the Showroom of the Year Awards, it was 2009. An inhospitable housing market and an uncooperative economy had our industry in a merciless chokehold. About the only thing accelerating was the technological advances in LED lighting, which presented new opportunities but also challenged us to stay educated in order to retain our status as lighting experts — a remaining reason to shop a showroom versus taking a chance with an online purchase, another front waging war on many stores.
In this harsh climate, we saw showrooms working harder than ever just to keep their businesses buoyant. We even saw some brave souls starting out in the face of strong headwinds. With Dallas as the leading buying venue for this market and our publication as its preferred information source, not only was our own short- and long-term success directly tethered to the survival of these beleaguered retailers, we were inspired to applaud them for their tireless efforts. When it could be considered an accomplishment just to stay afloat in this era, some showrooms were still innovating despite extremely lean resources, still investing in people and product without immediate payback. By the following June, six standout stores had become our first Showroom of the Year recipients.
This year represents the milestone fifth edition of this now-annual event. And after an abundance of entries and nominations, our judges narrowed the field to the finalists profiled in the April issue. Just as before, there are 10 finalists in each of three dollar-volume categories, with one winner to be announced in each and all finalists eligible for three specialty awards. Mark your calendars for the June 18, 2014, presentation during the summer Dallas Market.
While 2014 feels far more favorable than the economic conditions present when we introduced these honors, recognition is still important and well-deserved as lighting retailers continue to advance the potential of our industry to serve and educate. They’ve found creative and fun ways to keep an ongoing dialogue with their customers and prospects. And their environments invigorate our senses.
Just as we were going to press with the April issue, we had our own award news to share. Residential Lighting has been honored with its first-ever Jesse H. Neal Award, considered to be the Pulitzer Prize of trade journalism. But I’m only mentioning it as a related footnote, so I don’t steal the thunder from the fifth Showroom of the Year finalists — especially as they are on the verge of their own welcome rainmaking.