Christopher Lowell on How to Sell More Lighting
October 26, 2010 - 7:36am
By Mark L. Johnson

Residential Lighting: What was your lighting display in Las Vegas all about?

Christopher Lowell: The World Market Center came to us because our brand makes such a great connection with the public. They asked if we would take an area of their business that was struggling a little bit and apply our principles to it. We pre-coordinate everything, because we understand that the consumer has no time to make decisions other than, “Yeah, I like that. I get the whole story and everything that goes with it.” We polled fans before doing this project to see which shopping experiences are the most difficult. The two answers were the paint section at The Home Depot and lighting stores.

RL: Have you worked with lighting before?

CL: We like to think that we have been educating the American consumer about the importance of lighting more than manufacturers and retailers understand. Lighting is part of layer Number 7 of my Seven Layers of Design.

RL: What are your suggestions?

CL: Consumers think lighting stores are small and crammed floor to ceiling. Anything hanging you only see the bottoms of, and statistics show that people only go into a lighting showroom maybe twice during the ownership of a home. Edit what you offer and edit what you put on the floor. Go to your inventory; get rid of duplication in design. In lighting, nine out of 10 times you have to refer to a catalog anyway. So, show the very best of the look in that line.

More importantly, rather than being in one niche of the overall design process, be a bigger part of the process by surrounding lighting fixtures with other things the consumer can relate to. If you go to a furniture store, it’s fully realized. Other places consumers shop give a full experience. They see this goes with that, and that goes with this. But somehow, that did not translate into the lighting business.

So, by getting into accessories and small furniture — a great chair, a wonderful chest, a little wall art — you can create vignettes where people can say, “Oh, that’s the Shore look. Oh, that’s the Town look.”

Use the best of your Neo-classic look, and then let the customer refer to a catalog. Show two or three of Neo-classic lamps versus 42 of them. Place great accessories with them: a pillow or two, maybe a bowl. It is so win-win because it doesn’t take much more footprint in your store. More importantly, your bottom line grows. People like the lamp and they like the bowl. They take them both. So, the first endeavor is to broaden your offers and distill the essence of your store.

We recommend before doing new displays that retailers sit down and think of what the salespeople will talk about. Hand these “wordscapes” to the staff so they can describe what the customer sees: “This is ocean inspired — wind and sea and sand, organic materials.” Or, “This is traditional country.” Or, “This is a global country look.” Then, customers can relate to their homes. Remember, lighting is the last thing. People are well into the design process when they come to your showroom.

RL: How can we convince consumers to upgrade their lighting?

CL: One of the most important things consumers can do to create mood and romance is through lighting. If they miss that step and spend a ton of money on recessed lighting, basically they’ve got McDonald’s on a rheostat. In reality, a combination of task lights should be at arm’s length. Overhead lights can be dim, and spotlights, uplights and some palms can cast shadows, making a room look sexy and inviting.

RL: What are the hot color, finish and style trends right now?

CL: Men are partnering with women in the design process of the home for the first time in our history. This is something we were warning about for 15 years on TV. You want to look at things that are going to be luxurious enough for her, but are tailored enough for him.

The two lifestyles now tracking the most are the Resort-Spa lifestyle and Global. In Resort-Spa, people are so stressed out that when they go into their homes they want to relax. A lot of cues they are getting come from resorts and high-end health spas. Global is a combination of dark ash woods and modern square shapes mixed with chrome, the new brass. It’s designed to evoke a sense of non-cluttered calmness in an environment.

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