Showroom of the Year Winner: Hortons Home Lighting, LaGrange IL
 

Now in its 10th year, Hortons Home Lighting’s H Foundation has raised nearly $4 million for the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. The funds provide “seed money” for basic cancer research. The money the foundation has raised for basic research leads to millions of dollars from additional private funding in the form of large science grants. An annual gala called the Goombay Bash — which combines the bells and whistles of a black-tie affair with a casual, Caribbean dress code — has gone from a local event to a national fundraiser that draws hundreds from the lighting industry each year. Held on Aug. 7, this year’s Bash raised more than $575,000, a record. A crowd of 1,200 gathered at Chicago’s Navy Pier Grand Ballroom for an evening of drinking, dining, dancing, live and silent auctions, and fireworks over Lake Michigan.

Residential Lighting: What’s new at your showroom?

John Rot, owner and founder (pictured left with fellow H Foundation Board member Neil Graves of Tri-State Sales) : Even in a good economy, people love to get good product at a great price. So this past spring, we opened a cash-and-carry outlet store in Orland Park [IL]. We carry overstocks, discontinued items, special close-outs. When we go to the Dallas Market, we now shop for great deals for our outlet store. You have to be willing to work at it a bit, but the outlet has been very successful for us. We’re also remerchandising our store in downtown Chicago. It’s been about three years since we opened there, so it was time for a fresh look and some new vendors.

RL: What do you think your showroom has done right during the downturn?

JR: I have been very proud of our team during this recession. The approach we took was to sit down with everyone and talk about where the economy was at the time, and where it was headed. We said we wanted to keep the team intact, but asked everyone to take a slight pay cut to achieve that goal. Thanks to the team approach, we were able to have fewer layoffs, allowing us to maintain solid sales floor coverage. When things do start to turn around, our team will be all the more experienced.

RL: What do you think your showroom did not do very well during the downturn?

JR: I wish we had reacted faster. I am happy with how we have handled things thus far, but it took a few months to put our strategy in place. For instance, we had been talking about the new outlet store for about eight months. Looking back, if we had started six months sooner, the cash generated would have helped stabilize our business much earlier in the game.

RL: What’s on tap for next year?

JR: We are looking at opening other outlet stores in the Chicago area, so we’re already working on that. At the same time, we will increase our focus on the interior design community. We have started building those relationships with events in the store co-sponsored by our partner vendors. We hope we can offer courses that earn designers the continuing education credits they need to remain certified.

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