Residential Lighting: How should showrooms approach their market buying trips?
Denis Caldora: Start with the grid. A 5-by-5-foot ceiling display grid can hold six to nine hanging fixtures and two flush fixtures. If you don’t have enough merchandise to fill the grid with a story, then you shouldn’t buy anything for it. If you can’t make a story, or mix it with something else to make a presentation, the customer is not going to understand what it is.
RL: So how exactly does that work into the buying process?
DC: Say I have a showroom with 100 grids, and eight are crystal. I take a picture of each grid and put them in a binder. When I go to buy, if the crystal doesn’t go with anything I already have, I’m not going to buy it. I have a plan. I can see what I already have. If what I see at market is enough to add to a grid, or it goes with the look, I buy it. If there’s enough to do another grid, I have another story to expand my crystal section. I’m not wasting dollars, and I’m not losing visual punch.
Bring in new product to mix with the old so the salespeople don’t only sell what’s new. When adding to a display, shift it around. The new look gets the salespeople excited, and buying product that fits doesn’t waste money. But again, this is the formula: Take pictures of each cloud and break them into departments — painted finishes, Tiffany, crystal. Put them in a portfolio-type binder. When you meet a manufacturer, you open your book. The manufacturer is impressed that you’re organized. They may give you better dating.
RL: Does that leave any room for impulse buys?
DC: Of course. That’s what separates one lighting company from another. You see this funky thing and think: “I’m going to get that.” You look at the pictures and know where it’s going to go. You can bring in anything you want, as long as you have a place for it, it’s creative and it separates your showroom from others.
RL: Tell us more about negotiating with manufacturers.
DC: When I show my showroom, and they see I have a beautiful place, they look at me as being substantial. I say: “I want to do a full presentation of your product, and here’s where it goes, but I’m going to need something from you — better dating so my audience has a chance to come in and view it.” When you have pictures of your layouts and grids, they see everything you carry and get a visual of your showroom, don’t you think they’ll want to invest in you?
RL: Any other advice for stores?
DC: Know your audience. Know the styles of their homes. Know the price points in your area. Show good, better and best in every look you have. When I break the market down, 20 percent is low-end, 60 percent is average and 20 percent is upper-end. When putting stores together, I do 20-60-20. Too many showrooms make the mistake of not bringing in anything low. They go all high-end. How does the customer know it’s worth $5,000 when they don’t know what the $2,000 one looks like? How do they know it’s a deal at $600? They shop somewhere else.
At the same time, if you buy too many things, then you can’t afford to have them in stock. So, the customer stands there saying: “I want that wall sconce, but you don’t have it in stock.” They’re going elsewhere. But if you buy right, only two wall sconces in each grid, then you can say to the customer: “Do you see how nice this goes? And I have it in stock.” When you stock what you show, you sell more.