Residential Lighting: What does your 90th anniversary mean to you?
Rick Wiedemer: We’re in our fourth generation of ownership. What’s most meaningful to me is that we’ve been able to remain in business for such a long period of time, when the economy was vastly different in several different segments. We had to adjust, and we were able to do that and survive.
During World War II, being in the business that we were, Hinkley had a particular strength in plating and small-part manufacturing. We ceased production of lighting and, for four to six years, we became totally dedicated to supplying parts for the war.
RL: How has business changed?
RW: We used to be vertical manufacturers. We would conceive a product, design it, build it and then ship it to an electrical distributor. Today, most of the building of product is done by others. We provide a supply chain to get the product to the consumer.
In recent years, the American Lighting Assn. (ALA) has focused on changing the view of lighting from an electrical apparatus to a decoration for the home. More people now have the mindset to change their lighting fixtures when they redecorate.
RL: How has distribution changed?
RW: The last five or six years have been the most critical. New home construction has come to a halt.
To survive, showrooms have had to refocus their retail efforts. Our vision is that new home construction probably won’t come back soon. So we have to re-look at the way we market and sell our products. Hinkley has taken a course of lifestyle advertising to communicate directly with the consumer. They need to believe that a light fixture will create a more enjoyable living environment.
RL: Tell us about your company’s recent consumer research.
RW: I’d like to focus on one point: People don’t buy a light fixture that often. Statistics show that people will move every seven years, so they might change their light fixtures every seven years. Well, it’s not like buying a new pair of shoes or a new dress, but it is a fashion business. The biggest thing we learned was that there are so many choices of lighting, and the consumer is afraid to make a mistake. So they do a significant amount of research when buying lighting, and online fits into their formula quite strongly. They want to know about size, finish and energy savings. They come with a lot of questions, and they need to get comfortable before they make a
RL: You overhauled your Dallas showroom. Why was that?
RW: Number one, less is more. One thing we found in our research is that showrooms tend to over-display. It’s confusing for the consumer. With so many choices, they have no idea which way to turn. By showing fewer fixtures, they can see a fixture from all sides and better understand the scope of it.
Number two, make the consumer comfortable. To do this, we created vignettes: living room, kitchen, several bathrooms, outdoor, garden and deck. We hope retail showrooms will emulate some of the things we did. To our knowledge, this has been done by several of our key dealers.
RL: What do you see as the main challenges for the industry?
RW: The challenge for our industry is to help showrooms convert their business model to recognize the future consumer. All of us need to have the wherewithal to fulfill the supply chain once business returns.