End of an Era
Laura Van Zeyl

At the summer 2010 Las Vegas Market, our magazine sponsored a seminar on store merchandising featuring the inimitable Denis Caldora. Although he was already legendary in the lighting industry, this was the first exposure many of these particular attendees had to Caldora’s unique presentation style. And maybe he didn’t have them at “hello,” but he had certainly won everyone over by the time he had them all standing at the front of the room grouped by the clothing they were wearing, “merchandised” into cohesive color stories. At the time, the post-seminar evaluations he received were the highest scores of any speaker ever at that show.

Caldora’s influence on the way lighting is displayed at retail (and in showroom presentations at markets) is so pervasive that it’s probably taken for granted by now that it’s just the way things are done. It’s hard to imagine that ceiling grids were once so revolutionary, but they were, and Caldora was the first to bring them to this market. His approach to display also elevated the fashion aspect of lighting, something our magazine can truly appreciate since we came on the scene as the first “fashion magazine for a fashion industry” in 1992, a good decade into Caldora’s career of evangelizing the fashion faithful.

Those who saw the light also inevitably saw a spike in sales. Caldora’s clients consistently experienced a 35 to 45 percent increase in sales per square foot in areas enhanced by his lifestyle-oriented displays. As Caldora announces his retirement from the lighting industry, it’s just the kind of Michael Jordan track record that will allow him to go out on top.

In an industry with no shortage of strong personalities, his will certainly be missed. He was always able to deliver his merchandising mantras in a way that never felt dumbed down, but was consistently easy to understand and — even more importantly — to put into practice. There was always a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor and a genuine enthusiasm for the products he was romancing and the participants he was charming.

In a previous column, I once suggested that Caldora was the ideal reality star to represent our industry, camera-ready for a Tabatha Coffey-style showroom takeover where he could work his magic on retailers needing remedial help. I fully expected him to make his exit because Hollywood (or at least HGTV) was calling. But this energetic guru is simply choosing to move on, to travel and enjoy other interests. He’s taught us well, and much of his advice has become standard operating procedure. We’ll have to get to the next level of retail ingenuity on our own. And no doubt we will.

About this author

Laura Van Zeyl

Laura Van Zeyl is the Publisher/Editorial Director of Residential Lighting and Home Fashion Forecast magazines, and has been covering the lighting and home furnishings industries since 1993. In 2014, she was named one of "100 Women of Inspiration" by Today's Chicago Woman magazine.

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