Common mistakes lighting showrooms make
August 13, 2009 - 2:11pm

Residential Lighting: What’s the No. 1 mistake lighting showrooms make?

Joe Rey-Barreau: I think the biggest mistake a showroom can make is never to change. Customers want to see new things. If you take the time to rearrange the showroom, it is amazing how all of a sudden a fixture can sell in a week.

RL: After that, what’s next on the list?

JRB: Not mixing things up, not making the customer aware that many products can match. I use a concept called “strike points.” The idea is to grab the customer’s attention by creating mini vignettes. It’s ideal if you can put behind this vignette some type of 4-by-8-foot panel.

I did some vignette training in upstate New York. One Saturday morning, we emptied a corner in a showroom. I picked a little Arts and Crafts table and put it in the corner. Then, I said to the staff, “Using your intuition, find something that you think might work with this piece of furniture.” A warehouse guy says, “I’ve got something,” and he takes me to the crystal. Of course, crystal and Arts and Crafts do not typically go together, but this was a 19th Century-looking piece. The body was a dark metal, and it seemed to work well with the dark color of the table. That crystal sold within three hours, and it had been on display for six months.

RL: Any more “don’ts”?

JRB: Sticking to rules. There are no absolute rules for merchandising in the lighting business. Some showrooms are extremely dense, with fixtures mounted all at the same height. Other showrooms vary the height of the fixtures. There is no single correct way of doing this. Every business finds what works for them. The danger is when they keep doing it; you have to make changes.

RL: What about failing to keep up with technology?

JRB: Lighting is in the midst of a revolution. Recently, the President spoke about energy and — of all things — he started talking about light bulbs. He’s going to put energy-efficient light bulbs in the White House. Clearly, technology is going to play a huge role. Really, light bulbs are going to be a big part of the future of residential lighting. Both The Home Depot and Lowe’s put light bulbs right where you enter their stores because there is a huge profit margin in light bulbs. Lighting showrooms have not relied on light bulb sales, but I think it’s an opportunity for showrooms to make more money, especially with LEDs.

RL: Anything else?

JRB: Any store on the cutting edge has a lot of displays using flat-panel televisions. The images act as “salespeople” — who do not have to be paid. Many lighting showrooms don’t have enough staff. So, technology concepts, such as flat-panel televisions, are critically important.

Dimming is also woefully undersold in lighting showrooms. It is probably the most sophisticated product that showrooms sell, but most of the time it’s tucked away in back. Customers are completely used to the idea of controlling things and not just with standard switches. So, I think showrooms need to bring the dimming display closer to the front door, make a point of talking about it and have a flat-panel television there to help.

Joe Rey-Barreau, AIA, is Associate Professor at the College of Design at the University of Kentucky. He is an architect and lighting designer with more than 25 years of experience and 1,000 projects under his belt. He will present a Residential Lighting-sponsored seminar during the September Las Vegas Market.

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