Connecticut Lighting Centers, Hartford, CT
The first in its area to promote the “lighting center” concept, family-owned and -operated Connecticut Lighting Centers was established in 1972 by the Director family and a staff of six employees. Comprised today of three showrooms, including Restoration Lighting Gallery, the business has thrived thanks to a team of experienced lighting and home décor professionals whose priority is serving their customers’ every need. Founder Arthur Director’s business philosophy (“The Customer Is Boss!”) has been handed down to his son, David, who continues to run a retail business that’s open seven days and five nights each week. If need be, the store will open early or close late to make sure every customer is served.
“Any project we handle, whether large or small, we will handle professionally, efficiently and within budget,” says the company’s recently revamped website.
A new decorative hardware department in the Hartford and Southington showrooms is giving customers yet another reason to shop. Cabinet hardware, decorative knobs and pulls, locksets, door knockers, grab bars and lots more are merchandised to suit consumers and contractors alike. Opened recently, the decorative hardware department is promoted with magazine and broadcast ads, and on the company’s website and Facebook page, to create customer awareness and excitement. A consistent e-mail effort also helps customers stay in the know.
Knowledgeable, friendly employees are the backbone of Connecticut Lighting’s business success. Regular training on a wide variety of topics keeps the staff on top of the latest developments and trends in lighting and home décor. Because it prides itself on a huge product selection, this “one-stop shopping” retailer depends on courses from the American Lighting Assn. (ALA) and sessions with sales representatives to ensure its staff has the most up-to-date information.
One exceptional long-term employee, Outside Sales Manager Jim Meltzer, enabled the company to win the prestigious 2012 HomeWorks Job of the Year Award from Lutron. The winning project in an 18,000-square-foot custom home called for programming 288 buttons, a garage entry and a variety of time clock programs.
Design Lighting, Surrey, BC
Voted the “Best of the Best” by local residents for six years running, Design Lighting bills itself as Western Canada’s only lighting showroom with a complete design center. This remarkable center includes full-size kitchen, dining and living areas, as well as a comprehensive landscape lighting lab that enables customers to see how their fixtures would look in a dark sky setting.
The showroom’s Optiwatt switching system allows every fixture to be turned on while conserving energy since only
10 percent of the display fixtures are actually on through a wired relay system. Some showrooms use Optiwatt for some of their displays, but Design Lighting has 100 percent of its 3,000-plus fixtures on this energy-saving system.
Each one of the company’s contract sales specialists is assigned a full-time project coordinator who handles after-sale service and facilitates the logistics of every order. This ensures customers are properly serviced every step along the way and allows salespeople to focus on selling.
Many lighting showrooms consider salespeople part of the “family,” but Design Lighting’s customers are also given family status. Every customer is greeted individually when walking into the store, a personal touch that resonates through the entire company and with its vendors as well. Employees have passionately embraced a new bonus incentive program based on quarterly sales levels.
Thanks to a consistent print and radio advertising effort, Design Lighting is well-known throughout its market. The public recognizes it as a product leader, especially in the area of “green” technology. Twice yearly “garage sales” designed to blow out excess inventory are advertised heavily; at the last two events, the store had crowds of 20 people deep waiting for the doors to open.
A full-time staff is charged with keeping the showroom fresh by constantly moving around merchandise. Two fully decorated vignettes that pair lighting with furniture and accessories are updated weekly — and customers notice. They have been delighted with Design Lighting’s new display of Lutron’s electric- and battery-operated window blinds. The goal is to create showroom ambience that is second-to-none in the market.
Elements Distinctive Lighting & Home Furnishings, Carle Place, NY
For more than 25 years, Elements Distinctive Lighting & Home Furnishings has grown its business by doing things differently. Known in its local market as the showroom that designs its own products, the company has also built a national following among trade professionals. A national sales force backs up a comprehensive trade website and full-line catalog. A proprietary coded number system creates a layer of pricing protection for interior designers and the like.
A unique product offering sets Elements apart from the pack. Buyers tirelessly bring in new products from every corner of the globe, which are presented in the showroom as collections. Management takes great pride in its ability to constantly reinvent the showroom through a unique product mix, stylized visual merchandising and the personal touch of the company’s dedicated design sales associates.
Having a design-savvy staff is a very important ingredient to Elements’ business growth. A number of associates are graduates of the Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Members of the staff teach lighting courses at Nassau Community College, as well as at a local design school, the Metropolitan Institute. These courses are offered to students and company employees, and are supplemented by in-store seminars.
Being a community leader is a keystone of Elements’ success. When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, Elements went into action to help residents recover. During a four-day Black Friday sale, 10 percent of proceeds were donated to a local relief effort, Long Island Cares. Two employees reached out to local families by collecting donations that paid for food baskets and products from Elements, while also supplying much-needed cash.
When it comes to advertising, marketing and publicity, Elements takes a long-term approach with monthly calendars that take all media into account. Recently the company has focused on Facebook and other social media, as well as targeted e-mail blasts. These e-mail blasts are a blend of informational content and promotion, giving readers insight into new design trends, hot products and overstock specials.
Lighting By Gregory, New York City
Since it opened in 1985, this 8,000-square-foot showroom in New York’s famous Bowery has depended on a broad range of products and excellent customer service to bring in customers from near and far. That combination has allowed the company to become one of the oldest lighting showrooms in Manhattan’s lighting district and a bona fide New York landmark. The most influential lighting minds and everyday consumers walk under the famed golden canopy above the showroom’s front door every day — month in, month out. Set dressers from television and motion pictures have been using designs from Lighting by Gregory for years.
Famous folks or just everyday people, loyal customers are drawn to Lighting by Gregory by salespeople who have between 15 and 20 years of experience. One employee who joined the company when he was still in high school is a part owner today. Each sales associate is truly exceptional in his or her ability to service customers, from one small part to the largest projects. Even with their collective experience, employees are paid to attend ongoing educational seminars that help them stay abreast of new trends and developments.
A huge amount of inventory is maintained in on-site warehouses that span four buildings. The showroom itself is divided into four rooms, each with well-merchandised galleries representing various lighting manufacturers. The emphasis is placed on high-end contemporary lighting designs from major European brands, as well as American companies.
Buyers are always looking for fresh new product by attending trade events such as the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. In the recent past, eight new lines were added. Displays are evaluated every quarter to determine how well they are producing on a sales-per-square-foot basis.
Lighting by Gregory’s relaunched website provides comprehensive information on all the products its sells, ship times, style advice and more. Customers are often referred to the website to better understand the showroom’s full product assortment. Print ads in popular media drive people to the website and the store with a powerful message: Shop Lighting by Gregory for brand names for less.
Littman Bros. Lighting, Schaumburg, IL
When brothers Benson and Dan Littman first opened Littman Bros. in 1979, the company was destined to become a ceiling fan chain, with up to 20 locations. Throughout the 1980s, Littman Bros. was importing ceiling fans directly to each store’s location. At the same time, the company also began importing light fixtures. As home centers took larger pieces of the lower-end ceiling fan and lighting market, Littman began to consolidate operations. Management adjusted its focus to higher-end products to cover a side of the industry where the home centers left off. Littman also expanded to commercial sales — and eventually online sales.
Some 30 years later, full lines of retail and commercial lighting make Littman unique. Offices have been built within the showroom to run commercial and e-commerce operations. Sons and daughters of Benson Littman and Dan Littman have also joined the team in the last decade, making it truly a family business. Other key players are the sales team, with more than 120 years of combined experience in the lighting industry, solely with Littman Bros. Each is treated like a family member. Showroom managers Dave Miller and Lisa Cauldren have been working at Littman Bros. since 1983. Other sales employees have been with Littman nearly a decade.
Fresh retail displays that bring home fashion to the forefront inspire and excite customers. Among many display updates, the store’s Tech Lighting area was recently modeled after the company’s Dallas showroom. Designed around a stark white background, the display emphasizes the beautiful shape of each fixture in a simple, yet dramatic way.
Littman Bros. has used the Internet to build its business, too. Now an online authority, the company uses social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Houzz to show the latest lighting fashion and design ideas. Weekly blog posts on the Littman Bros. website, Blogger and Wordpress not only educate and inspire customers, they have earned the company publicity via local media outlets in the form of guest columns. Informative weekly press releases are another way Littman Bros. gets its name out.
Meletio Lighting & Electrical Supply, Dallas
Dallas-area homeowners, interior designers, builders and contractors flock to Meletio Lighting & Electrical Supply for the 10,000-square-foot showroom’s one-of-a-kind product presentation and exemplary customer service. Part of the community since 1920, Meletio is the area’s largest stocking distributor of many popular brands and offers next-day delivery throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The company takes pride in going above and beyond to ensure customers will be completely satisfied with the service and their purchase. All sales associates are ALA Lighting Specialists. In addition to monthly customer service seminars for the staff, Meletio schedules regular product knowledge sessions taught by factory sales reps.
“Meletio At Your Service” is another way Meletio connects with customers. This new program makes factory-certified and -trained technicians available for house calls. These professionals handle everything from changing light bulbs
to installing light fixtures.
Meletio also caters to interior designers and custom homebuilders with a Trade Member program. Members can make use of a space within the showroom equipped with a catalog library for their own research and customer consultations. Trade pricing, a special order program, educational seminars, networking events and more are other ways Meletio attracts professionals to its Trade Member program.
Trade and end-user customers alike see Meletio advertising in high-end interior design magazines. E-mail marketing and the company’s popular Facebook page are other ways of keeping customers engaged. A luxury box promotion that reached targeted consumers reinforced the Meletio brand and also got the name in front of new potential customers, too.
Marketing is a skill the company does well, but building relationships through service is a Meletio specialty. Recently employees joined forces with Habitat for Humanity to build a new home. The company paid to send five employees to Oklahoma to put new roofs on tornado-damaged homes. Teams of employees go to a local Salvation Army to work in the kitchen for one week each quarter. And the company always sponsors a family through a local church each year at Christmas.
Norburn Lighting, Burnaby, BC
“Every channel matters in the new retail landscape. And while a multi-channel approach is certainly more complex, if done strategically, it pays off.” That perspective, taken from Norburn Lighting’s Showroom of the Year entry statement, provides great insight into the company’s long-standing success. In business for more than 40 years, Norburn has worked hard to keep in step with today’s sophisticated customer, a shopper who has more choices for where to buy lighting than ever before. “In the past, it was price, quality and speed; choose any two,” the entry statement reads. “Today a company that can’t deliver on all three is dead in the water.”
So Norburn uses strategic analytics, social media, CRM lead generation, result-oriented SEO and other facets of a 21st Century operation to build sales and profits. A thoughtful marketing program runs the gamut from informative advertorials in key publications to e-mail blasts to a blog on the company website. Targeting specific products and categories, the popular blog posts are crafted to include keywords that improve the company’s ranking in Google and other search engines. Norburn has found that creative, low-cost contests with gift card prizes help to grow its social media audience on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Modern techniques aside, quality customer service is still the main ingredient in the company’s recipe for success.
”Recruit for attitude, train for skill” is a philosophy that has served Norburn well. To properly service a market of great cultural diversity — more than one third of Vancouver’s population was born outside Canada — the staff can converse in a total of 10 languages, from Mandarin to Farsi. Everyone on the customer service staff has earned, at the minimum, ALA Lighting Specialist credentials. In addition, Norburn has a robust, industry-leading training program and pays for any outside course that will benefit the company and staff member. Marketing Director Norm Brown was even recognized by the ALA as a Pillar of the Industry for his dedication to continued education and training.
Union Lighting and Furnishings, Toronto
A past Showroom of the Year Award winner, Union Lighting and Furnishings continues its mission of providing a retail environment and shopping experience that is unlike any other lighting, furnishings and accessories store in the metropolitan Toronto marketplace. The largest lighting showroom in Canada is also among the oldest; the company began in 1914 as Star Gas & Electric, later changing its name to reflect the “union” of the five brothers and their families who owned and operated the business. The current showroom opened in 1960 in a centrally located part of the city and today spans some 100,000 square feet of selling space, served by a staff of more than 80 men and women.
Renovations and improvements are ongoing. In the recent past, the store added a mattress gallery, enlarged the fabric selection area, created new galleries for chairs and wall sconces, and revamped its juvenile furniture area. Outdoor lighting, seating and dining furniture are now displayed in another new area designed with a life-size house façade, real cobblestones, doorways, trees and other atmospherics to closely replicate a genuine outdoor experience. Customers use iPads to control LED lighting and electronic window blinds within a new state-of-the-art “Experience Room.”
While consumers account for a sizable portion of sales, Union also provides Toronto’s top interior designers, builders, architects and developers with a commitment to excellence and service beyond most retailers. Union has renovated its showroom for the designer, too, with intimate, self-contained room settings that make for a better understanding of the design process. Designers’ clients can literally ”feel at home” and take each experience one room at a time. A new coffee bar gives designers a place where they can sit and talk with their clients in a comfortable private setting.
Union aims to be a good neighbor and works with a number of non-profits throughout the year. It is the largest contributor of new retail goods to area Salvation Army stores and is the exclusive lighting partner to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation Home Lottery. It has also provided fully furnished rooms for the Children’s Wish Foundation.
Urban Lights, Denver
Urban Lights bills itself as Denver’s largest, newest and coolest lighting showroom. Re-opened in November 2010, the 50,000-square-foot showroom consists of lifestyle settings presented in galleries complete with storefronts that give customers the feeling of shopping a store within a store.
According to its entry statement, Urban Lights puts an emphasis on in-store displays that “breathe.” The feeling is that lighting should be shown in intimate settings or, at least, displayed in ways that don’t feel congested or layered on the ceiling. Merchandisers create lighting displays that show off the artistic and sculptural nature of the products’ design.
Attention to detail includes an ever-changing array of furniture, decorative accessories and artwork that keeps the showroom fresh and on-trend. Surfaces within the galleries are regularly treated to new wallpaper, paint or other materials. Recently a full travertine marble wall went up in a gallery called Italian Villa to give it a genuine Tuscan feeling. The wall not only looks great, it helped sell fixtures moved in front of it from other areas of the showroom.
Accommodating customers as much as possible is another way that Urban Lights differentiates itself, like being open all weekend. In the past year, the company also stepped up its service commitment by doing more free in-home consultations. A growing network of custom fixture makers adds another layer of the personal touch customers so appreciate.
While its website and social media efforts have become central to Urban Lights, this past year the company had great success with a spadea wrap in Denver’s daily newspaper. About the same cost as an inserted tabloid ad, the wrap went around the paper’s main news section, boosting visibility and readership. The residual impact lasted about two months, with weekend sales up 30 percent during each of the eight weeks following the ad.
Yale Lighting + Appliance, Boston
The way Yale Appliance management sees it, the only way to compete as a brick-and-mortar operation is to have better salespeople selling better product so customers have a better shopping experience. “In the Internet age of instant feedback and reviews on Yelp, Google and Angie’s List, service must be the most important element of any business,” according to the company’s entry statement. “Service is our core competency.”
In business since 1923, the 30,000-square-foot showroom devotes about half its selling space to lighting, with the balance going to appliances, plumbing and accessories. In the past year, the company worked hard to improve the shopping experience all the more by adding 10,000 square feet of selling space, moving its warehousing, and updating its operating and social media platforms.
A culture and commitment to excellence makes Yale unique. An expert staff is at the heart of Yale’s success and associates receive ongoing training at least three days a week. This year, there will be more half-day off-site training. The company aims to hire people of good character, compensates them well and offers an extremely competitive benefits package. Quarterly bonuses are based on meeting targets and each department has different quarterly goals. This year, Yale’s 110 employees will receive $400,000 in bonus pay, a sign that each team member understands his or her own role in overall company performance. Likewise, the company is generous to its community, donating merchandise and more than $100,000 each year to local causes.
Strategic blogging, targeted e-mail campaigns, Facebook and Pinterest posts are part of a well-defined social media strategy. The blog is viewed more than a million times in a year; 21 e-mail campaigns have a 45 percent open rate, with a click-through rate of more than 30 percent. The key to sales through these efforts, according to Yale’s entry statement, is relevance and behavior. “We want to inform without being overbearing,” the statement explains. “We have stopped advertising and shouting at people through outbound media, and started answering their questions through blogs and videos.”