All stories by Nancy Meyer
As the lighting industry gathers for its semiannual market in Dallas, executives said they’re concerned about oversupply and will focus on managing their businesses in a very tough economy.
While some call this economic situation a “downturn,” others are calling it a crisis. Either way, it may be keeping some retailers from venturing to the Dallas Market, vendors told HFN.
Retailers making the trip, however, are serious about getting help from vendors to drive sales in their stores.
Joel Horowitz, Lighting By Gregory’s owner, will spend three days at the market compared to his usual day and a half.
“I need to spend time with manufacturers willing to help us get product here and up on display, with co-op and rebates,” Horowitz said. “We have to work harder, work smarter.”
Still, Lighting By Gregory’s business is more retail-focused than most lighting showrooms. Its e-commerce business is strong and continues to grow, and it’s located in New York, which continues to thrive and see property values rise, Horowitz said.
Speaking about vendors in Dallas, another retailer said he’s specifically looking for creative ways to drive business in his showrooms.
“The clever guys will help us sell through the product with advertising, dating, programs—all kinds of programs,” said David Director, principal of Connecticut Lighting. “Will there be deals in Dallas? Sure, but is that the reason I’m going? No. I’m going [to market] to see how well technology plays into new products. That’s real important for us—to stay on top of my field,” Director said. “The bottom line is, over the next year, it’s going to be about who can run their business well.”
Indeed, many are characterizing this economy as a make-or-break time for retailers who are teetering on the edge. The shakeout has been happening slowly, but will accelerate, sources predicted.
The lighting showrooms that are heavily reliant on home builders have been particularly hit hard.
Vendors said they will be particularly proactive this market in partnering with retailers to manage their businesses and drive retail sales.
Quoizel, for instance, will have a back room filled with all its advertising tools, marketing tools and programs, including Tiffany Tours and other traffic-generating events, said Rick Seidman, president and chief executive officer. Quoizel will work with showrooms to develop in-store seminars and marketing plans to effectively target new markets and maximize sales with existing customers, he said.
“We’ll participate with them. We’ll invest our money, run a couple sales events, in-store promotions,” and when showrooms see the results, “then they’ll have a real reason to buy more goods,” Seidman said.
The Minka Group has a similar lineup planned, said Tim Flannery, vice president of sales and marketing for the Metropolitan and Ambience lines. In addition to the launch of the Walt Disney Signature collection, Minka will be armed with lots of programs, including sales training seminars for retail associates, complete with collateral materials. Jimmy Norris, national sales manager, will conduct the sessions in eight cities in 2008.
“The higher-end product takes more explanation to sell, explaining the intrinsic value,” Flannery said.
What’s going to separate the lighting showrooms from the other channels “is a higher level of service and knowledgeable associates. For Metropolitan, this year is all about product and product knowledge to help sell through,” Flannery said.
This market will see an abundance of new products, including more value-priced goods from traditionally upper-end companies, and a big focus on energy-saving lighting as more consumers embrace compact fluorescents and LEDs. From Kichler, Quoizel, Progress and Thomas to Hinkley and beyond, many companies are increasing their energy-efficient lighting offerings.
“We see energy savings as a message for promoting ceiling fans,” said Jim Holcomb, president of Casablanca Fan Co. “We can communicate that ceiling fans are great energy-saving, green products that allow consumers to save on air conditioning. We have a communications opportunity here we’ll be working on.”
Major launches include Murray Feiss’ Martha Stewart Lighting fixture program, Savoy House’s retro-inspired lighting and fans, Waterford Lighting’s Times Square Collection and a refined gallery program with a smaller footprint, among others.
The question is whether the retailers have the open-to-buy for new goods.
“We have reduced new product, new SKU count to align ourselves to the market needs,” said Terry Fraser, vice president and general manager of Thomas Lighting. “There will be a tremendous amount of product saturation [at market]—way too much product from way too many vendors for the market to absorb.”
There are a few highlights among the events and parties. On Friday, Jan. 18, Crystorama is hosting its 50th anniversary bash and birthday party for founder Abe Kleinberg; Quoizel is hosting an 80th birthday party for Chairman Ira Phillips and will also have its cash tornado booth operating; and Waterford Lighting will host a party.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, the annual ARTS Awards program will take place. Advance registration is required. Also Saturday, Jan. 19, Craftmade International hosts its annual Customer Appreciation Party at the Khmer Pavilion at the Anatole Hotel, with dinner and dancing.