Like most sizeable retailers, Hermitage Lighting Gallery, located in Nashville, TN, welcomes hundreds of new products into its showroom several times every year—each time its buyers return from market. Though the new designs are key to keeping the salesfloor fresh, the administrative work demanded by the influx can be overwhelming.
“Each new item comes with important product information,” says Hermitage President Jack Fleischer. “That info, which comes in as anything from a photocopy to a catalog, must be keyed into our system. It takes weeks for my buyers to enter the information.”
The American Lighting Assn.’s Electronic Technology Committee has developed a simpler, more efficient way for retailers, manufacturers and software vendors to exchange basic product information: an approved database standard, set up as a single-page Excel spreadsheet with 39 set fields reflecting characteristics typically used to describe lighting products, such as name, finish, weight and number of bulbs. The standard form makes it possible for manufacturers to clearly communicate the same essential information to lighting showrooms and representatives, who can then pass the data on to their customers, helping them make more informed purchases and streamlining data entry.
“Ultimately, our goal is to help showrooms sell more,” says Rose Finley, Chair of the ALA Electronic Technology Committee and Information Technology Director at Quoizel. With the approved standard in place, the organization must now work to spread the word about its benefits.
“The process has been like running a marathon versus a sprint,” Fleischer says. “At the moment we’re working with our software vendor to comply. Once we’re in sync, we’ll work on the manufacturers."
The ALA has published the standard on its Web site at www.americanlightingassoc.com  and soon hopes to also include a list of compliant software vendors and manufacturers.