14665 Fri, 06/13/2008 - 12:19pm
All stories by Nancy Meyer
Attendance at this week’s Dallas Total Home & Gift Market is expected to be light, but vendors are hopeful that quality time spent with buyers will translate to sales and improved relationships.
In such a tough business climate, buyers might not be coming so much to buy as to work with company officials on driving more foot traffic through the stores.
For their part, Dallas Market Center executives have been wooing international buyers, and have prepared for a strong turnout from abroad, particularly from countries never before represented here. Bill Winsor, DMC chief executive officer, told HFN that international lighting buyer attendance is up from 60 last market to about 180 expected this week. Additionally, a lighting buying contingent from B&Q, the U.K.-based largest home improvement chain in Europe, has confirmed attendance, he said.
In addition to its overseas appeal, the Dallas market, now named the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, is positioning itself as a total home venue, with crossover opportunities in children’s apparel, gift and home goods, as well as furniture, rugs and holiday merchandise.
This summer edition will also feature a new Hospitality/Contract Lighting Show on Monday, June 23, which aims to add a new dimension for lighting exhibitors and buyers. The target audience for that venue is facilities managers, interior designers, architects, builders and others.
While many exhibitors said they’re approaching this market “realistically” and have cut back on the number of new product releases, they promise to continue the innovation as well as sell-through programs.
“We are spending more time training the front-line salespeople,” said Brian Hart, vice president and general manager of Forecast Lighting. “We are playing up the unique and profitable nature of our products more than ever, and adding SPIFS [sales promotion incentive funds] to augment the training. In one market, we are experimenting with dedicated space for our brand that will create both a brand statement as well as an ideal work area. We have also cleared out older goods at a more aggressive pace, replacing them with our newer, more salable designs.”
Rick Seidman, president and chief executive officer of Quoizel, said that his company has a full “marketing arsenal.”
“In this climate, it is imperative that we create marketing programs to increase retail traffic to the lighting showroom,” Seidman said. “A major emphasis will be presenting consumer-driven retail programs” including “a customized circular program, Tiffany trunk show with 100-year-old Tiffanies, direct mail postcard campaign, newspaper and magazine ads, new merchandising displays, in-store one-page fliers, etc.”
Greg Vandia, president of Murray Feiss Lighting, added that, “Our sales and marketing programs have been tailored to reflect the reality of the marketplace, but we will continue to be intelligently aggressive in capturing market share. Although we have scaled back slightly the quantity of our new product introduction, we are still presenting about 140 new fresh designs.”
In terms of product, energy-savings will be a major focus this market, with many Energy Star lighting introductions, as well as high-performance ceiling fans and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
American Fluorescent is showing what it’s calling a “breakthrough in LEDs,” dimmable, stylish LED mono-point pendants, offered in six styles and a variety of colored, hand-blown glass with two canopy finish options. Progress and Trans Globe Lighting are showing LED outdoor lanterns, while Kichler has its successful LED undercabinet and landscape systems, among the many LEDs to be shown throughout market.
Marrying high-performance lighting with natural, sustainable elements has been a focus at Forecast Lighting with its Organic Modern collection. Highlights include cork over clear glass, handmade papers with embedded botanical elements, sand on glass, onyx and numerous fabrics. Taking this trend and adding the element of customization, Forecast is showing its Palette Flex Media, a simple wall sconce with eight diffuser swatch inserts including natural grasscloth, cork, safari fabric, botanic paper and others.
The natural trend will also be a prevalent theme, as will upper-end goods and luxury looks at a price.
This sits well with Wayne Falk, vice president of sales and marketing for Hudson Valley, Troy and Corbett Lighting. “As the entry-level builder market has softened, dealers are seeing the need for better product. That is what we do, and it is helping our business stay strong in this more challenging arena,” he said.
The challenging business environment will be a major topic of discussion. Several major importers are struggling with supply issues, as factories and subvendors in China shut down amid cost increases from labor to materials and gasoline and currency. At least a handful of vendors will raise prices this market, as the last wave of price increases in January didn’t come close to covering their cost increases, they said.
But vendors are also concerned about the health of their independent lighting showroom customers, many of whom are struggling with cash-flow issues and an over-dependence on builders.
Several lighting companies are taking a stronger stance on Internet dealers undercutting prices, and are implementing stronger Internet minimum advertised price (IMAP) policies. Kichler and Murray Feiss recently changed their IMAP policies to reflect a higher pricing structure, from 1.8 to 2.0 mark-up. Hudson Valley/Troy/Corbett Lighting, Elk Lighting and Quoizel, among others, are also expected to increase their IMAPs.
“It is important for all of our dealers,” Falk said. “In fact, many of our e-tailers have requested this as they have extreme expenses to support their operations, and they need a higher IMAP to maintain profitability.”
To help showrooms and grab a bigger share of disposable open-to-buy, vendors will be touting all sorts of promotions, deals and incentives. But some vendors lamented the freebies being dumped on showroom retailers, from free floor samples to year-long payment plans and more liberal free-freight programs.
Hart said that while Forecast Lighting will offer a typical show discount promotion, “We won’t go overboard with deal-making. Rather, we will tell people that in this pretty bad economy that Forecast sales are 25 percent improved over last year because our products are really moving in the marketplace. We’ll rely on telling our Organic Modern story, validated by our sales results.”
Hart warned that the deals will only backfire on showrooms, representatives and vendors.
“There is no responsible way to counter the outrageous deals and free products that are currently being offered by some of our competitors,” Hart said. “We’ll also be stressing to our reps that Forecast has their best interests in mind—we are winning in a down economy, and they are making better money selling Forecast. Therefore, they should devote more mind-share to us rather than other lines that may be dumping free product into the market. It may be an opportunity to attract better representation in some markets.”