BOCA RATON, FL
One of the most established lighting showroom companies, 88-year-old Capitol Lighting is also one of the most modern marketers around. A “bricks and clicks” business model has been a success for the family-owned firm, now in its fourth generation. More than 500,000 items are sold online, and another 3,000 are available in eight showrooms in Florida and New Jersey.
Known for having hard-to-find lighting fixtures, the showrooms feature creative displays that tell a story within each fixture family. In-store kiosks create a “virtual showroom within a showroom” experience with powerful search features including product and price comparisons.
Yet some things never change. Rather than make that one-time sale, the ultimate goal for salespeople is to form a relationship with a customer. Today, that oftentimes happens through social media, and sales staff training on that topic is now in place.
CONNECTICUT LIGHTING CENTERS
The customer is boss! That mantra, handed down from founder Arthur Director to his son David continues to contribute to the company’s success.
Opened in 1972 as the area’s first lighting showroom, Connecticut Lighting Centers and its partner store, Restoration Lighting Gallery, take pride in having a knowledgeable, experienced staff. The team includes veteran lighting and home décor professionals who spend a good deal of time learning more about lighting products and technologies at regular in-house training sessions and monthly vendor presentations.
Partnering with vendors has been a winning strategy for Connecticut Lighting. This year it also won the company recognition when it was named one of the first 50 Lutron Five Star Showrooms. The honor recognized a custom-made interactive in-store display of whole-home Lutron lighting controls. The company website paid tribute to Jim Meltzer, Outside Sales Manager, for leading the way: “His vision and ability in home controls and shading is outstanding. It’s rare that one has both the capability of laying out these systems and has the full understanding of the installation process as well. We are extremely fortunate to have Jim leading the team and our efforts.”
The slogan says it all: “You’re in good hands with Design Lighting.” The showroom’s top priority is to help clients satisfy their specific lighting needs and enjoy the process, start to finish. In fact, the high level of customer service that begins in the showroom ends at the customer’s home, with detailed paperwork and full-service delivery that includes carefully packed orders.
Design Lighting management puts a high value on customer service. Everyone on staff does his or her best to meet every customer’s needs. The goal is to sell lighting that satisfies both aesthetic tastes and light level requirements.
With varied skills and a wide bank of knowledge, Design Lighting’s employees share information openly as a team to ensure customers’ expectations are met. Monthly sales goals are set with corresponding incentives if the goals are achieved. The staff participates in online training and product knowledge sessions with manufacturer representatives. Monthly team meetings allow for idea sharing and feedback.
The number of consumers researching or shopping online is steadily growing and will surpass 200 million by 2015, eMarketer says. Found on the company’s website, Lighting Unlimited’s Virtual Showroom online video tour operates as a slide show or a self-directed “walk-through.” Easy to navigate, the tour provides excellent views of actual product and product displays. For the shopper who wants to research online to narrow choices before coming to the showroom to buy, the virtual tour is the ideal tool.
Contemporary lighting is a real star of the virtual tour. And there is nothing limited about Lighting Unlimited’s selection; it’s the area’s biggest contemporary offering. More than half the showroom is dedicated to fixtures made by top European lighting companies. Grand windows all along the front and sides of the building make the most of the colorful glass fixtures that twinkle by day and mesmerize by night, even from a distance.
The inner areas of the store are devoted to outdoor and landscape lighting, portables, track lighting, ceiling fans and a variety of ceiling and wall fixtures. A rear conference room is painted deep red, a stark but pleasant contrast to the naturally illuminated brightness up front. Lighting Unlimited continually works to improve store merchandising. “There have been great strides in enhancing already beautiful merchandising and product selections to simplify what is usually an overwhelming experience for the consumer,” the entry explained.
LUMENS LIGHT + LIVING
The Lumens Light + Living showroom produces far less revenue than the company’s website, yet its owners believe it is vital to their business. “We got into this business because we love good design. We have the showroom because we want to stay connected to customers,” says Ken Plumee, co-founder.
While the website has grown continually since its launch in 2005, Lumens is destined to be a single-store operation. Yet the experiences in the showroom, and the ability to interact with real customers buying real lighting for real homes has helped www.lumens.com become one of the five largest online contemporary lighting retailers.
At press time, Lumens was about to launch the latest version of its website. With so many lighting designs on today’s market, the company invested in better shopping tools to make it faster and easier than ever to find the right product. For the trade, there are new project management tools that allow architects, builders and designers to more easily collaborate with their own clients.
MELETIO LIGHTING & ELECTRICAL SUPPLY
Meletio Lighting & Electrical Supply has been around for 90 years, and today its superior customer service is fueling growth, even in a tough economy. According to company estimates, 70 percent of sales are repeat business, and 25 percent come from referrals.
Programs such as “Meletio At Your Service” have taken the 12,000-square-foot showroom to new heights. Customers can request a factory-trained, certified technician come to their home to change light bulbs, clean and balance ceiling fans, or change smoke-detector batteries. All salespeople are trained American Lighting Assn. (ALA) Lighting Specialists. Five have been with the company more than 30 years.
A broad selection is another draw. In addition to fixtures, Meletio carries lamps, ballasts, lighting controls, recessed fixtures, track and landscape lighting, plus electrical supplies. The stocking dealer has a 22,000-square-foot warehouse, which enables next-day delivery in the Dallas Metroplex.
Merchandise displays are carefully planned to maximize sales per square foot. Furniture and accessories are “layered in” to help customers visualize the fixtures in a home-like setting. Full-blown vignettes get the job done.
Still a quintessential family-owned retail business, Metro Lighting has grown from a small “pipe and wire” electrical contractor shop opened in 1967 to eight fully merchandised lighting and home accents showrooms, and nine electrical counters.
The largest lighting retailer in the state, the company dominates the St. Louis/Cape Girardeau market. Large, thoughtfully merchandised showrooms are a mix of beautiful lighting, home fashions and displays showcasing the latest home lighting and control technologies.
Nick Frisella, grandson of one of the company’s founders, oversees efforts to keep Metro at the forefront of energy-efficient lighting. A 2010 recipient of Energy Star®’s Excellence in Retailing for Lighting Award, the company offers customers free energy audits and consultations. It has taken the lead on educating consumers about recycling, light bulb legislation and lighting alternatives. A large custom grid display shows examples of different LED illumination cast on two dozen identical small red vases.
The way Norburn Lighting sees it, quality service comes from quality employees. Known for their technical knowledge, listening and communication skills, and ability to solve problems, Norburn’s employees are customer service experts who are capable of working with electricians, architects, specifiers, designers, property managers and retail clients. Each staff member is a certified ALA Lighting Specialist.
In the past year, the company provided time and funding to allow staff members to complete a university-level marketing program. A new staff member is Lighting Certified, a credential issued by the National Council of Qualifications for the Lighting Professional (NCQLP).
The focus at Norburn Lighting is to provide clients with sound lighting solutions. “Our staff works with the client to ensure what is sold will address primary requirements before any of the style requirements are considered,” according to the company’s entry statement.
ROBINSON LIGHTING LTD.
With showrooms across Western Canada, The Robinson Group is a fourth-generation, family-owned company that began 75 years ago with one outlet. The 10,000-square-foot Robinson Lighting Winnipeg showroom is unique, a blend of a warm, family atmosphere and the buying power of a big chain store operation.
Expert advice from a team of sales professionals, each of whom has ALA Lighting Specialist or Certified Lighting Consultant (CLC®) accreditation, is backed by years of experience in the lighting field. Many employees have been with the company more than 20 years. From start to finish, the intent is to ensure each customer has a positive experience doing business with Robinson Lighting. Regularly scheduled training sessions and company events keep morale high. “The staff knows we support them, and they support us,” the company’s entry statement explained.
A large product selection is one of Robinson Lighting’s strengths. The store is full and neatly arranged. Across the entire showroom, small coordinated vignettes defined by square, overhead fixture displays help customers by making it easy to shop. Employee desks are located throughout the showroom for greater customer convenience.
UNION LIGHTING AND FURNISHINGS
Canada’s biggest lighting showroom grew by another 7,000 square feet since the company received its Showroom of the Year Award last year in the $5 Million+ category. The expansion includes an improved customer service area, an enhanced merchandise pick-up area and additional showroom display space.
Now well over 100,000 square feet, the showroom issues maps to help customers find what they are looking for. Merchandise is grouped by style category, another way Union Lighting makes it easy to navigate its mammoth showroom. Exclusive galleries feature top name Canadian designers and a selection of products from around the world. A new 10,000-square-foot bath and vanity section features more than 300 vanity lights. Two complete house facades and a deck with a pergola are new additions in the outdoor lighting area. Genuine stone and brick walls and 12-foot-tall trees add a dash of retail theatrics.
In 2011, the Union Lighting website underwent a major transformation to make it more consumer-friendly. The new design is clean and fashion-forward to support the brand. A Solutions Center puts the answers to common questions at one’s fingertips. New sections and features were added. Now it is possible to search by style category and product category.