Discerning decorators have moved away from prefabricated, overcoordinated home scenes in favor of a more customized look that is purely a reflection of the individual. As a result, decorative details, such as lamp shades, are an important part of expressing personality and are in high demand with the trend-tuned set.
“There are a couple different kinds of customers who come in for lamp shades,” says Karen Arnold, owner of Phillips Lighting & Home in Modesto, CA. “Occasionally, someone will come in with a threadbare shade that they’ve been using forever and need to replace. But for the most part, they’re people who’ve inherited a lamp and want to make it their own, or it’s part of a redecorating project.”
St. Louis’ Metro Lighting Centers attract the same trend-watchful clientele.
“People are starting to feel more confident [about expressing]
their own personalities and lifestyles,” says Kate Kasten, lamp shade purchaser for Metro. “Lamp shades should reflect the individual customer’s way of living. [They] are an inexpensive and easy way for a person to completely change the ambience of a room.”
While replacement lamp shades can be a tricky business (they take up a lot of room and are notoriously difficult to match), stores that serve up the right cocktail of service and selection can take advantage of a substantial profit center.
Service with a Smile
For Hye Lighting in Tarzana, CA, a successful shade program begins with a knowledgeable, attentive salesforce.
“Lamp shades are a popular business, about 15 to 20 percent
[of our revenue],” says co-owner Tamara Titizian. “And we don’t
have a lot of competition because of our reputation for quality customer service.”
Titizian and her brothers, Victor and Chris, grew up in the business, watching as their mother made and repaired shades. Today, the siblings are the salesforce at Hye, and they sit down with each and every shade patron, evaluating needs and employ-ing their extensive knowledge and experience to make sure they deliver a solution.
“It’s all about knowing lamps and taking the time to under-stand what the customer wants and to pair the right shade with the right lamp,” Titizian says. “Every inch matters, and we’re not satisfied until the lamp looks like it is supposed to look. Sometimes they’re here for a few minutes, sometimes for half an hour—whatever it takes to get it right.”
Service is also key at Metro Lighting. Sales representatives come to the store to train the staff to measure and select the right shade shape and size for the lamps people bring in. Metro employees use that knowledge to earn customers’ trust.
“One of the reasons [shade shoppers] come to see us is because
they like the level of service they get here,” Kasten says. “They like to sit down with someone who’s willing to take the time to walk them through the process of purchasing a shade.”
You Want It, We've Got It
Having a wide selection of products is also key to winning customers and keeping them coming back. Hye Lighting, for example, offers more than 1,000 shades of all shapes, sizes and colors. “If we can’t find the exactly perfect fit, we’ll make one,” Titizian says.
Many showrooms that offer a full-service shade depart-ment will make a custom shade out of fabric from their suppliers or from fabric customers bring in to match their existing decor.
A designated display space for the category is another component in a lucrative shade business. With thousands of shades in their inventories, larger showrooms like Hye and Metro lend generous portions of their stores to the product.
“As far as display, we have the entire back lefthand corner dedicated soley to replacement shades,” Metro’s Kasten says. “We want our customers to see as much of what’s available to them as possible. Then they also have the option of ordering something if they don’t automatically see what they want on the shelf.” Metro also displays shades on freestanding racks and on lamps throughout the showroom.
After watching lamp shade sales in her showroom plummet over the last few years, Phillips Lighting & Home’s Arnold has decided to ditch the store’s shelves in favor of a fresh approach to displaying and selling the product. Instead of grouping them together in a corner of the showroom, Arnold will arrange vignettes according to color, setting up a table with a runner and a few pillows and hanging color-coordinated shades from chains above. She will exhibit more shades on racks in hopes that the vignettes will pique her customers’ interest.
“We realized that we need to think of shades not as lamp parts, but as accessories,” Arnold says. “This approach takes a lot more work, but [we think] it’s the only way to do it.”
A beautiful lamp begins with a well-proportioned shade. Here are a few basic guidelines for achieving the perfect fit:
- Measure the diameter of both the top and bottom of the shade, as well as along the height of the side, to determine its size.
- Traditionally, the shade’s height should not exceed that of the base of the lamp.
- Convention also has it that the widest portion of the shade should not be less than the widest part of the body of the lamp.
But according to Tamara Titizian, co-owner of Tarzana, CA’s Hye Lighting, the rules were meant to be broken.
“While we do keep proportion in mind, it’s more of a visual thing, and the old rules for determining the right shade are not necessarily true anymore. We encourage our customers to bring their lamps in, so we can try out different looks.”