Front-of-house displays are prime real estate for any lighting retailer. But at Connecticut Lighting Centers  in Hartford, CT, switches and dimmers — not decorative products — greet folks as they enter.
“The first thing you see is a Lutron  display [with interactive] switches, shades and controls for home automation,” says David Director, President of Connecticut Lighting Centers. “Decorative lighting is decorative lighting, but how we control that light is what’s exciting and new.”
More and more lighting retailers are beginning to recognize the profit potential of this category. Once a simple wall plate with a lever, today’s switches are smarter and more fashion-forward. And companies continue to push the envelope in terms of form and function. Most recently, Legrand  shook up the category with its new Adorne line, which features a distinctive square design, 32 finish options and seven unique interface designs, including a switch that uses touch-screen technology to power lights on and off.
“[We designed Adorne] to help homeowners view switches and outlets not as eyesores to work around, but as beautiful yet functional design features that complement their décor and elevate the style of any room,” says Mario Gonzalez, Vice President of Marketing for the Adorne Collection.
Legrand applies the same concept to the Adorne display and marketing materials it offers its retail partners. Designed to be attractive as well as approachable, the display allows customers to interact with the switches and dimmers and to get a feel for what they can do. That interactivity is key to selling switches effectively. Just ask Outside Sales Manager Jim Meltzer of Connec-ticut Lighting Centers, where displays begin with the simplest models up to full home automation.
“Everything we have is workable, and we encourage customers to spend time with the products and to play around with them,” Meltzer says.
Customers who visit Costa Mesa, CA’s Allied Lighting  can see what switches and other lighting controls do to create different looks in a full-scale kitchen. The retailer’s 1,500-square-foot Light Lab has become a destination for homeowners, as well as builders, contractors and interior designers.
“We sell sophisticated lighting controls, including switches and dimmers,” says General Manager Robert Hertzberg. “When people experience first-hand how those products completely transform a room, it becomes a no-brainer for them.”
While aesthetic attributes may be enough to close a sale, retailers would be remiss if they ignored switches’ energy-efficiency story, says Bryan Biga, National Showroom Manager for Lutron. “Explaining the benefits of switches and other lighting controls from an energy-savings perspective gives consumers another side of the story, and an important one at that.”
To make the most of switches on the showroom floor, category veterans like M&M Lighting ’s Allan Margolin say it’s got to be all or nothing.
“As a showroom owner, if you’re going to sell lighting controls, you have to commit to it,” he says. “You have to be excited about the product and stay up-to-date on the latest innovations. You also have to give your sales staff the proper training, and you have to actually stock the product.”
Director agrees. “You’re either in it or you’re not. It’s a commitment, but we feel it’s an integral part of the lighting business, so it’s important for us to be all in.”