The American Lighting Assn.  (ALA) offered its members a wave of timely information on technology and retailing during its 2011 Annual Conference Sept. 11-13. The conference made the most of its beachside location at The Breakers  resort in Palm Beach, FL, including a seaside opening reception, sponsored by the Canadian Standards Assn.  (CSA). (CSA President and CEO Ash Sahi is pictured, left, with ALA President and CEO Dick Upton.)
The Conference boasted 492 attendees, including 105 first timers. There were also 98 showrooms in attendance, and 41 new ALA members.
One of the high notes of the Conference, according to many attendees, was a keynote by consultant Jon Schallert  on how to turn a business into a destination for consumers by doing simple things like displaying awards the business has won, hanging up historical pictures of the business to create a sense of longevity, or creating some kind of landmark, such as a garden center that built the world’s largest teapot.
Another major highlight was a discussion between Philips Lighting North America  CEO — and this year’s Lighting Hall of Fame inductee — Zia Eftekhar, and Osram Sylvania  CEO Rick Leaman on the future of the lighting industry. While the discussion covered a wide variety of topics, the majority of the conversation centered on new technology. Eftekhar predicted that LEDs will make up half of all lighting sold by 2015 and 75 percent by 2020, and offered advice to those hesitant to make the change.
“Don’t be afraid to embrace the change, but make sure you can fail cheaply,” Eftekhar said.
Leaman also had advice on how to adapt.
“We need to focus on educating ourselves and our employees so that they can educate our customers,” he said. “It’s also key to differentiate yourselves from your competitors and allow your customers to experience the new technology.”
In an address to the membership, incoming ALA Chair Tony Davidson of Kichler Lighting  also addressed the crowd about the importance of adapting, saying, “What has worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the future.”
“Over 500 showrooms have closed their doors. Longevity is no longer a promise,” he said. “We must continue to be students in how we approach our business, regardless of longevity.”
Leaders of ALA also took time to inform attendees on the organization’s many accomplishments over the past year. Upton shared the good news that membership is up and that member retention is at 94 percent, at a time when most associations are losing members. He also cited the success of ALA’s education program, including the current e-marketing webinar series and collateral materials, which had enjoyed 1,300 registrants by Conference time. ALA Vice President of Communications Larry Lauck also provided an update on the successful Bi-National Advertising and PR Program, which Lauck said is on pace to deliver 90,000 leads this year — the most ever recorded.
Members who have done a great deal for the organization and the industry were recognized during the Annual Banquet on the final night of the Conference. Outgoing Chair Carolyn Overman of Western Montana Lighting  was honored for her service over the past year. In addition, ALA’s Director of Engineering and Technology Terry McGowan and Cree’s  Chris Wellborn were recognized with the 2011 Leadership in LED Lighting Safety and Standards Development awards.
Eftekhar received his Hall of Fame induction during the Banquet, while Progress Lighting’s  Jim Decker, Canadian representative Fred Fennell and Capital Lighting’s  Larry King were named this year’s Pillars of the Industry.
Next year’s conference will be Sept. 9-11, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch  in Scottsdale, AZ. For more information, e-mail ALA Director of Conferences Beth Bentley  or stop by ALA’s booth by the Trade Mart third floor escalators during January’s Dallas Intl. Lighting Market .