Adding a lighting lab to your retail lighting showroom
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm


Kitchen lighting lab
The glass-walled kitchen lighting lab in Seattle’s Alexander Lighting showroom is clean and modern, but more importantly, it offers designers and their clients a quiet place to explore and experiment with a given project’s task, decorative and technical lighting needs.

The “sea of fixtures”: It can be the scourge of the lighting retailer, the inevitable, necessary evil of showroom display. And yet, some categories—especially those associated with the task-oriented atmosphere of most modern kitchens—are as incompatible with a sea of fixtures approach as a fish out of water.

Many successful retail lighting showrooms are instead investing significant amounts of time and money in the installation of kitchen lighting labs. A hands-on demonstration area helps consumers wrap their minds around the catch phrases and concepts invoked to describe the advantages of one linear light over another, the differences between cove and undercabinet lighting. What’s more, it makes them feel at home.

Successful lighting labs can pay for themselves in a matter of months, but the most lucrative results come from intensive planning. Here are just a few tips to get your showroom cooking:

• Make it realistic. Customers want to see their own homes and ideas reflected in a showroom’s demonstration area. This doesn’t mean you have to match their aesthetic, but make sure to include modern materials and kitchen innovations. Laurie Gross of Toledo, OH’s Gross Electric installed granite countertops in her showroom’s kitchen display, so that her clients could actually see the surface glare caused by improperly installed undercabinet and pendant lighting. Showrooms that can afford to install multiple types of countertops will satisfy the needs of even more customers.

• Make it helpful. Integrate as many applications, technologies and light sources as possible into your kitchen lab. This allows for comparing and contrasting the advantages of, say, LED undercabinet lighting, halogen or CFL rather than incandescent lamping in pendants. It presents savvy lighting retailers with the opportunity to educate clients, as well: Face-to-face with energy-efficient innovations in real-world applications, consumers will better understand how the new technologies stand up to tried-and-true sources.

• Make it interactive. Encourage customers to mix-and-match. Gross outfitted her undercabinet lighting displays with Velcro, so her sales staff and their clients could view as many options as needed to find the right application for their home. At St. Louis’ ARTS Award-winning  Metro Lighting, the kitchen displays are accompanied by an electrified tower equipped with every kitchen application the showroom sells. Customers can flip each example on and off to compare and contrast the temperature, output and light quality. Combine Gross and Metro’s techniques, and you have a hands-on haven.

• Make it usable. One of the biggest concerns in undertaking a lighting lab project is its expense, but doubts are assuaged when kitchen displays pull double duty. “Our kitchen lab is a community chest,” says Mitch Johnson, owner of Prairie Lighting in Shawnee, KS. “It started out as our employee lunch room. With a few renovations and updates, it became a state-of-the-art demo center that just so happens to have a full refrigerator and, more often than not, well-informed designers sitting around its table.”

• Make it cost-effective. Lighting showrooms are an integral part of the home building process. As such, their connections with community contractors usually run deep. Offering colleagues free, in-showroom advertising in return for trade-outs, donated supplies and discounted labor is a fiscally sound way to realize your lighting lab dreams.

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