|Energy-efficient lighting at Lighting Design by Light Bulbs Plus, Rancho Cordova, CA.|
Quite the hot topic these days, energy-efficient lighting continues to shed its persona as a troublesome seller. While legislative requirements, increased availability, financial incentives and more stylish options help break down the existing barriers to consumer awareness and acceptance, lighting showrooms explore new roads to success with the quickly advancing technology.
"[The energy-efficient category] can be very profitable," says Lisa Mace, co-owner of California's three Light Bulbs Plus stores and two Lighting Design by Light Bulbs Plus showrooms. "Our local utility works with me on just about any program I'd like."
Mace has formed a partnership with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) that provides a great model for showrooms looking to capitalize on the sudden surge of interest in energy-efficient lighting. Having merchandised such product for two decades (since the opening of the first Light Bulbs Plus store in Mountain View, CA), she found her customer base not only finally receptive to but also legally bound to energy-saving options when the states new Title 24 went into effect on Oct. 1, 2005. The code requires application-specific percentages of high-efficacy luminaires and controls, spiking demand and laying the groundwork for a public newly eager for education.
According to Mace, SMUD runs two to three promotions a year on commodity-type lighting. But the utility has lately turned its attention toward decorative product, allowing Mace to propose deals on chandeliers, pendants and portables. For example, SMUD may agree to supply a 10 to 15 percent subsidy, while the lighting manufacturer trims 15 to 20 percent off the item's cost and Mace drops her retail price by, say, 10 percent. Everybody wins. The lighting industry moves product, the utility conserves energy and the consumer gets a deal on Title 24-compliant lighting. The joint strategy breaks down yet another barrier to public acceptance of energy-efficient alternatives: cost.
"Two of my reps say other show-rooms are doing this," Mace says. "But they say nobody is doing it as much as we are."
Lighting Design by Light Bulbs Plus has also partnered with other local businesses—a nearby plumbing fixture supplier and a high-end cabinet supplier—to form a business co-op, Design Corridor of Rancho Cordova. Their pooled resources will be used to fund TV advertisements and direct mail campaigns to get the word out to local builders, designers and specifiers. In addition, Mace visits area construction officials to help them understand Title 24 requirements. She sees awareness growing like never before.
"There is going to be change," Mace says. "At [the Dallas Market] in January, it seemed the high-end companies were very interested in talking about it. But I found it funny that a couple of them said, 'Well, it's just a California thing.' I don't think that it is. Yes, [we in] California may be starting it, but before you know it, the whole country will be promoting energy efficiency."