Lubbock and Tyler are just shy of 400 miles away from each other, and while many may argue that East and West Texas are nothing alike, my road trip to two family-owned lighting showrooms indicates more fellowship than rivalry.
By Linda Longo
Once briefly its own country – the Republic of Texas – the 28th state to join the union has always marched to its own drumbeat. After all, as a market, the state has the expanse (268,597 miles) and population (28.7 million) to maintain its own lifestyle and décor aesthetic independent of trends in the rest of the country. Up until roughly 10 years ago, the lighting style of choice in Texas was large in scale and “brown and curly” in appearance, a reference to the ubiquitous traditional-style scrolled iron chandeliers in a dark bronze finish that for decades never seemed to wane in popularity even when contemporary and lighter finishes were de rigueur nationwide. And yet within the immense Lone Star state, the people of East and West Texas have long thought there were significant differences between themselves.
All of that is changing, as I discovered on my whirlwind tour with award-winning veteran sales representatives B.J. Ferber and Barbara Jordan of Bill Ferber & Associates. Having to cover such an expansive territory – the mileage equal to what could easily span several states in other regions – means maintaining two home bases (Dallas and Houston) plus the time and expense of airplane and car travel to visit customers over a vast territory regularly. It used to entail serving two very different environments with distinct end-consumer tastes, but social media and HGTV have been closing that gap.
Our tour began at Dement Lighting in Lubbock (West Texas) with husband-and-wife owners Dru and Crystal Dement and ended the next day at Hagen’s Lighting in Tyler (East Texas) with Shane Hagen and his wife Katrina (Trina). With a population of more than 255,000, Lubbock is known as the birthplace of legendary rocker Buddy Holly and is home to Texas Tech University. Tyler, on the other hand, is referred to as the “Rose Capital of America” and has a population of more than 100,000.
Introduced one Dallas Market by a mutual friend, the two couples immediately hit it off. Not only are they roughly the same age with young children, but both face the challenge of following in the footsteps of the previous generation while blazing their own trails. “I call Shane once or twice a week to talk about ideas,” Dru recounts. In fact, the families have even taken vacations together and are contemplating buying a shared vacation home.
What surprised these two showroom owners most is not that they have a lot in common, but the fact that their customers share a lot of the same preferences. In particular, both showrooms have noticed a move away from Traditional and skewing more Contemporary.
“Everything I buy and sell is LED these days,” Dru states. To that point, Dement Lighting features LED prominently. “I think the market is ready for it, but you have to display it in order to make people more comfortable with it,” he remarks.
As homeowners opt for décor that is “lighter and brighter” in color palette along with Contemporary furnishings, Dru says roughly 50 percent of customers walking in are asking for LED — and they are asking for 5000K. Dru and Crystal believe the desire for this color temperature has to do with the consumers’ thought process of wanting their interiors to look even more dazzlingly light and bright. “We started having people coming in and asking, ‘Do you have this in a brighter or higher Kelvin,” Crystal notes. This is when the showroom personnel step in to educate the customer on LED and the benefits and pitfalls such as glare. Once this occurrence became consistent, Dru alerted Shane about this preference only to find that Hagen’s Lighting was experiencing the same.
Due to the similarities in customer wants, the couples take time to meet up at Dallas Market to exchange observations and take inspiration from the displays at Lightovation. “We’re taking a lot of our merchandising cues from them,” Trina states. “We also pay attention to the trends we see at market, such as a lot of white ceiling fans and fixtures lately.”
Changing up the product displays more frequently has become increasingly more important to both showrooms.
“Nobody wants to see the same thing [hanging there] every time they come in,” Trina comments, adding, “Even the builders who come in with their customers want to see the showroom and merchandise mix look fresh.”
Having products that appear unique from what’s available online is another selling point that brings customers coming back. “We consider ourselves a specialty store because everyone who comes in wants something different than what everyone else has,” Trina relates. This is one reason why Hagen’s Lighting no longer inventories as deeply as it has in the past.
Now that we’ve established some common ground, let’s do a deeper dive into the backgrounds and history of each showroom.