Showrooms’ Biggest Missed Opportunity: Home Décor
December 3, 2010 - 10:13am

Residential Lighting: What advice do you have for lighting showrooms?

Jim Fleming: The first order of business is generating more sales. Most showrooms are down 30 to 50 percent. One of my standard strategies with clients is to reduce inventory by 50 percent, and I guarantee a minimum 25 percent sales increase. If showrooms ever surveyed their customers, they would find the number one thing the customer says is the showroom is overwhelming. We confuse people with too much selection. We should take cues from successful retailers. Walk into Nordstrom. Walk into Target. Look at their use of in-store signage and graphics. Adopt that. Create good, better and best presentations. You have a wall of $49 to $89 bath lights, another with $89 to $149 and a third with $149 to $249 fixtures. Make it easy for people to narrow their selection. And make it easy for your salespeople to sell up.

RL: Where are our best opportunities?

JF: It’s not new homes. There are 10 times more kitchen and baths being remodeled than there are new homes being built. Our industry has focused so much attention on new home construction for so long, and it was never the biggest market. I was with Expo Design Center, where I was exposed to data and research. The information was out of this world. It showed how big the remodeling market was going to be. Well, the number one opportunity isn’t new construction, and it isn’t even remodeling. It’s home decorating. It’s what Pottery Barn, Pier 1 Imports, Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma have built their businesses on.

RL: So we should ramp up with more home décor?

JF: Yes. Mirrors, art, candles, florals, wind chimes, fountains, mailboxes and things of that nature. Several showrooms have done it well — Susan Dressel of Naples Lamp Shop, Arthur Lebersfeld at Capitol Lighting, the folks at Farrey’s Lighting. When was the last time you visited an ARTS award nominee or an ARTS award winner in your region? Visit the best of the best, learn from them and come home and implement some of those strategies.

RL: How should stores do the marketing?

JF: Find a way to speak to the average homeowner who still has the home’s original lighting fixtures installed. Say: “How about updating your lighting fixtures? You’ve replaced your carpet, painted your walls, done your draperies, bought a new sofa and TV. How about buying a light? Lighting is important. Do you want to make a significant statement in your home? Well, grace the outside of your home with beautiful lanterns. Grace your hallway with mini chandeliers instead of that piece-of-crap melon ball, which is still there.”

Sell the benefits. Imagine walking through a showroom and seeing a dozen big posters showing beautiful bathrooms, beautiful kitchens, beautiful living rooms, illuminated beautifully with beautiful fixtures. Imagine lighting showrooms having six 42-inch monitors. You walk into the bath lighting gallery and you see rotating images of beautiful bathrooms with beautiful lighting fixtures. You walk into the outdoor lighting gallery and you see rotating images of beautiful homes with beautiful outdoor lighting and landscape lighting. Same in the crystal gallery and in the contemporary/modern gallery. That’s selling the benefits.

RL: How would you organize a showroom?

JF: Showrooms are too big. I’d rather have three 5,000-square-foot showrooms in a marketplace than one 15,000-square-foot showroom. Also, we suffer from “chandelier-itis.” I’d put chandeliers on the periphery of the showroom. Right dab in the center, I’d have a bathroom remodeling gallery with everything I could possibly show for bathroom lighting and bathroom decor. I’d also feature kitchen remodeling and as much outdoor living decor as I could get my hands on.

RL: What about an approach to selling?

JF: Most showrooms do not have an outside sales initiative. It’s a huge missed opportunity. They need to develop an outside sales team to call on builders, remodelers, designers, architectural referrals, kitchen and bath designers, and drive through older neighborhoods looking for remodels. You need people outside developing new business, and people inside the store trained to reach out. That means picking up the telephone more often.

RL: Any final thoughts?

JF: Buyers need to attend buying markets looking for editorial story opportunities to bring home to the editors of local newspapers and magazines. Hardly any do. Look for stories that you can use for your newsletter and direct-mail pieces, in e-blasts to designers and to submit to editors.

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