Sell More Outdoor With Lighting Labs
November 13, 2009 - 10:16am

When it comes to selling landscape lighting to customers, seeing really is believing. And nothing opens consumers’ eyes to the category’s potential like a well executed lighting lab. As more homeowners envision their outdoor spaces as extensions of their homes, retailers that understand the need to help customers visualize the effects of lighting in their outdoor spaces through lighting labs are best positioned to benefit from the heightened interest in this niche.

Pace Lighting’s new 1,800-square-foot outdoor lighting lab (pictured here) — located in a separate room inside the showroom — has quickly become a favorite among the Savannah, GA-based retailer’s customers, says Frank Bartlett, President and Store Manager.

The lab is arranged to mimic the outdoors, with pavers, AstroTurf®, pine bark and outdoor furniture. Along the main walkway path and around the five small patio pools, the subtle star of the show is Hinkley’s After Hours landscape lighting collection, carefully displayed throughout the space to create a mood, enhance visibility and highlight the different elements.

The goal? “To bring the outside in,” Bartlett says. With a blackened ceiling and neutral walls, the room provides a controlled environment where customers can experience the effects of the landscape lighting as it would look and feel in their own backyard.

Idlewood Electric Supply in Highland Park, IL, has had an impressive outdoor lab for 20 years.

“Customers are intrigued with it,” says Idlewood CEO Barbara Lansing. “You create your own environment. From a pitch-black room, all of a sudden you begin painting with lights. All of a sudden, there’s a path that’s lit up, a moonlit tree that’s lit up. The side of the brick house that the light is grazing. All of a sudden, you are now in an ambient setting as opposed to darkness. It adds character, interest and value to your home.”

From step lights to a rope lighting system, the key is to actually show customers the effects of lighting — not just tell. “It can be the dead of winter and we can bring a customer into the space and say, ‘Okay, this is what we’re going to do to your deck area in spring,’” says Lansing. “They can feel confident that their investment is going to be what they are anticipating.”

Over the years, the long-standing lighting lab has been constantly updated to reflect changing trends and keep the consumer interested. To ensure a successful sale, says Lansing, it’s important to understand the customers’ specific needs and wants. Are they on a budget? Is the lighting meant for the front of the house or yard? Is the lighting mainly for safety, security or aesthetic reasons?

According to Doug Prexta, Landscape Sales Manager for Hinkley Lighting, showrooms should take a coordinated approach when it comes to displaying their labs. “Show a wide variety of outdoor fixtures to the customer. It is important to show the lanterns with the path lighting as a collection or theme,” says Prexta.

Spotlights will accomplish most of the lighting effects, including uplighting, moonlighting, grazing, wall washing, shadowing and silhouetting. “It is important to be able to show these lighting techniques and how they can be used in different applications,” Prexta advises.

He adds that consumer interest in outdoor lighting has definitely risen in recent years, as homeowners seek to enjoy their outdoor spaces well into the evening hours.

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