Residential Lighting: What’s on your agenda for 2012?
Steve Crowder: There’s a lot going on globally that impacts this industry, such as the economy, fragmentation and overseas manufacturing. Most small businesses get touched, whether you’re a sales rep, an independent contractor or a showroom. ART is the only trade association that has the full divide across the supply chain — suppliers, manufacturers, sales reps and retailers. Our focus for next year is to do a lot of education and information exchange across the industry.
RL: What education programs are you talking about?
SC: Retailer roundtables will be a big focus for 2012. We’ve brought retailers together at markets to share best practices. They get the wisdom of the crowd to address problems. We’re going to expand that to include manufacturers and sales reps. ART Conference is one place where there’s a free flow of information, but it’s limited to two or three days. We want a more ongoing information exchange.
RL: How will lighting showrooms benefit?
SC: We’re trying to segment the roundtables so showrooms can get information specific to their needs. People are broadening their product selection. Even lighting showrooms are carrying other products. Then, some problems are just business issues, such as compensation, incentives for salespeople and merchandising, so some roundtables will impact businesses across the industry.
RL: Other ideas?
SC: We want to expand our membership dramatically over the next 24 months. It’s currently around 150. We’d like to get at least 100 more members and then go from there. Over the last two markets at High Point, there were over 25,000 registered buying groups. So we’re just scratching the surface. By increasing membership, we can start doing surveys.
RL: What kind of surveys?
SC: Surveys as far as pricing strategies, marketing strategies, the effect of the Internet, online sales, etc. in order to to provide data to help retailers and manufacturers in their businesses.
RL: What kind of participation do you get from the lighting industry?
SC: It’s a small percentage. I think the lighting industry’s exposure to ART has been, “Well, this is home accessories, and we’re not getting what we want.” Actually, we’ve added some strong retailers that are focused on lighting, and I think they are coming away saying, “Maybe we need to take another look here.”
RL: Talk about the new ART Card loyalty program.
SC: We have around 20 manufacturers who offer a discount to card-carrying ART members. They each define their own program. We started in July with a handful of manufacturers, and it’s blossomed pretty quickly. If you’re a retailer, you’re being rewarded for being a member of ART, and if you’re a manufacturer you’re attracting retailers to your showroom. It’s a win-win.
RL: What are the top reasons to come to ART Conference in May?
SC: First, we are bringing top-notch speakers this year. People will hear something they haven’t heard before. Second, you can get problems solved through the wisdom of the crowd. Third, this is a relationship-building industry. The conference gives you the opportunity to spend time with everybody in the supply chain. You will see things in a different light.