Why And How To Offer Complementary Products
Showrooms branch out beyond their lighting roots.
 
A vignette at Yale Appliance + Lighting pairs fully functional appliances with decorative pendants, as well as track and undercabinet lighting, to show customers how the products work together.

Yale Appliance + Lighting may have added refrigerators and washing machines to its lighting mix in the 1960s, but at its 25,000-square-foot showroom in Dorchester, MA, the relationship between the two sides of the business is as fresh as ever.

“We’ve become a destination,” says Robert Joyce, Lighting Sales Manager. “Our customers are spending more and more time in rooms like the kitchen, and when it comes to furnishing those spaces, they want to do it right. That means the right appliances and lighting. We have it all under one roof.”

The concept of differentiating a product mix is nothing new. For years, retailing experts have been touting its advantages — a surge in store traffic, the potential for increased profits and diversified risk — and warning against its pitfalls — the danger of overextension. But as lighting showrooms look for ways to prosper in an ever-evolving industry, adding something on the side is an attractive way to compete.

Connecticut Lighting Centers recently found a perfect complement to its lighting offerings in decorative hardware. A new 1,000-square-foot hardware showroom inside Connecticut Lighting’s Hartford, CT, location (the Southington showroom also has a new decorative hardware display) features an extensive variety of products from cabinet hardware to door knockers. The showroom also touts services, including design consultation and keying expertise.

“We saw adding decorative hardware as an opportunity to integrate a product group that really flows seamlessly with lighting,” says David Director, President of Connecticut Lighting Centers. “We can also offer the service component that is missing at the big box stores and other competitors.”

Even with such an organic partnership, bringing a brand-new category into an established showroom is not without challenges, Director says.

“Selling hardware is definitely different from selling lighting. You thought lighting was bad [in terms of the numbers of products on the market], but decorative hardware is mind-boggling. And especially when it comes to things like keying locks, you need people who really know what they’re doing.”

In addition to a knowledgeable staff, one way to surmount the challenge of selling two different kinds of products is to find a way for them to work together. At Yale, that means creating engaging vignettes that highlight what one product can do to enhance others.

“We did a renovation in 2012 and took that opportunity to redo a lot of our displays throughout the showroom,” Joyce says. “We broke things up visually and combined many of our appliances into working vignettes with our lighting. That way, our customers can see what these things can really do in real-life applications.”

While products like appliances and decorative hardware fit well with lighting, they’re not the only complementary offerings showroom owners are introducing. Laurie Gross, President of Gross Electric in Toledo, OH, brought in a line of jewelry designed by her sister, Marcia Miller.

“Marcia had been on my case for a while,” Gross admits. “Her company, I Love Bracelets, shows in the Omni Sales Group [showroom] in Dallas, so finally about four years ago, I walked through with my team. They loved it.”

Gross has placed the jewelry at the point of sale to attract customers as they’re checking out and incorporates it into the showroom’s furniture displays, as well. What was initially a $1,000 investment has grown into an extra $5,000 to $6,000 in annual sales at an unbeatable margin, Gross says.

“It’s been a small but great addition to our showroom,” she says.

For other showrooms that are considering adding another product, Director’s advice is to do the research. “Go out and look at what your competitors are already doing, and once you know what you want to do, make sure you have the resources in place to do it right.”

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