Store events and seminars have long been used by lighting showrooms as a way to introduce new lines and boost showroom traffic, especially among interior designers, architects and homebuilders. Now, some lighting showrooms are using such events as a primary means to promote themselves in the marketplace, even cutting back on traditional advertising schedules in order to pay for them.
“It’s a major investment on the lighting vendor side and a major investment on our side,” says Daniel Pfeffer, CEO of Lighting by Gregory, which hosts the first of four planned “Designer Night” events with a Robert Sonneman appearance this month.
An aggressive PR effort helped to get the word out about the event at the New York City store to consumer and trade press. And mass e-mail blasts to its database of designers also encouraged attendance.
Pfeffer says promoting and hosting the event will take “a hefty chunk out of the company marketing budget.” To pay for it, Lighting by Gregory will tap available vendor co-op dollars and cut back its magazine and newspaper ad spending for the year.
Pfeffer says the evening will help promote Lighting by Gregory’s recently remodeled showroom, which includes a 26-foot-long Robert Sonneman display, custom-designed by Sonneman himself. “We think it’s a great investment in our brand,” says Pfeffer. “It shows how we’ve partnered with our vendors and that we really appreciate their work.” Sonneman will give a three-hour presentation about his products, and his lighting and design philosophies. Later this summer and fall, Lighting by Gregory’s follow-up events will feature Tech Lighting, Holtkötter and LED lighting.
Jeff Seigal, Vice President and General Manager of Wolfers Lighting, with showrooms in Allston and Waltham, MA, says his company hosts store events because the market demands them.
“People are dying for information,” Seigal says. “Certainly, anything related to LED lighting and the newest energy-saving lamps are of great interest.”
Wolfers showrooms have what are called “green zones,” displays that showcase LED and fluorescent lighting — the perfect backdrop and staging area for trade-oriented technical seminars. Wolfers’ seminars, for example, have helped boost business with members of an area homebuilders association and with an interior design group in the market.
“We’ve done things in the past related to a number of topics, everything from new product, to what’s hot in the marketplace, to the latest recessed lighting,” Seigal says. “We’ve even done historical events, such as Lighting through the Years and the Evolution of Lighting. We like to try a number of things.”
Last fall, Wolfers worked with Lutron and Lightolier on a wine-and-cheese event. Vendors set up tables and fielded questions about products and the latest technologies, and Seigal says the results exceeded expectations. This month, Wolfers has scheduled another technology-focused seminar for trade customers.
“We have a fairly large database that we’ve developed over the years of customers who receive our newsletters,” says Seigal. “I think that people look to us for these kinds of things. We’ve been in business for a long time. We get calls all the time from the trade wanting to know when our next seminar will be.”