ELK Group International ushers in the ’20s with streamlined operations, honing in on product distinction and greater customer partnership.
Although ELK Lighting has been a mainstay in the decorative lighting industry for more than 30 years, over the past decade its parent company ELK Group International (EGI) has been gaining momentum by acquiring the assets of 14 companies in a variety of home furnishings and lifestyle product categories.
“Since I joined ELK [last year], the question I get asked the most from customers is, ‘Why are you in all of these businesses, and do they have purpose together?” states Dave Pamer, ELK’s CEO. “These were strategic decisions. Maybe we have not done a good enough job explaining why or telling our story of how [these acquisitions] can also help our customers.”
With its legacy rooted in lighting, ELK has looked outside its comfort zone for growth, pursuing categories that would be complementary. “We see an opportunity where today’s consumer and end-user are searching for curated and merchandised styles and trends across product categories that make their decision-making easier, and frankly, ones that they are more confident in and reflect their personality,” Pamer continues. “For our distributor partners, it represents a wonderful opportunity to cross-sell solutions. What we know is that when a consumer or end-user comes to a lighting showroom, it is with a purpose in mind, and usually a project. We are intentional when we design product to ensure that it falls into today’s relevant style and trend themes so that the cross merchandising, cross selling opportunity has consistency. As we pursued this strategy, we did not want to compromise our heritage in decorative lighting or what we are known for in lighting as we added these categories, namely choices that allow end-users to affordably define their personal style and identity. We recognize that this strategy may not be the right solution for every showroom, but our responsibility is to provide solutions that can generate incremental revenue streams.”
ELK Group business partners Mark Fludgate and Bradford Smith are focusing on organic growth, leveraging the platforms they’ve acquired, adding leadership and consolidating the company’s distribution footprint into its new one-million-sq.-ft. facility in Northeast Georgia.
Pamer hints at significant changes going forward. “You will notice an important change in ELK when Dallas Market arrives; you probably won’t recognize us! Traditionally, customers look to ELK for specialty items or a uniquely designed product,” he explains. “We don’t want to lose that distinctive niche, yet with our product development capabilities, we know we can also deliver forward-looking style and trend products within limited collections or small families. The intent is to carry a look through various applications without creating a saturated environment.”
There are other changes that will be noticeable by the January markets. The first involves a new showroom merchandising concept designed to simplify customers’ selection process. The second is a lighting showroom product-program strategy that supports and addresses showrooms’ challenges by providing omni-channel logistic services that allow the lighting showrooms to service their customers from either inventory or through drop ship from the company, mitigating margin erosion and helping to manage the risk of new product inventory that does not turn.
Helping to lead the charge is Emma Lowry, who has just been appointed Director/Product Development, Decorative & Portable Lighting Design. Having previously developed decorative and portable lighting and furniture for the company’s home furnishing brands ELK Home and Stein World, Lowry will now lead and oversee the comprehensive product direction for all decorative lighting and portable lamps for all distribution channels in ELK Lighting, ELK Home, and Stein World.
On the Accent Furniture and Home Décor side, Darrell Gardner will now be responsible for all of the Stein World and ELK Home design and product development planning and execution, focusing on creating a more unique and exclusive product offering while maintaining ELK’s value.
In effort to help combat rising costs due to the tariffs on China, ELK will be further utilizing its company-owned factory in Indonesia. There, a team of artists hand-paint wall art and develop new painted finishes that can extend across its product categories. The Indonesian factory is also where original furniture hardware wood-carving designs are then approved for sand-casting production.
“Our objective in these categories is to be in control of the ‘jewelry’ on the product — unique finishes and hardware that define the product essence,” Gardner says. The company also sources in India and Vietnam as well as China for specialized products such as white marble from exotic Agra, hand-collected shells from the shores of Bali, and root bundles sustainably harvested from the teak forests of Java. As part of its commitment to social responsibility, ELK runs a sustainable tree planting program and a new clean water initiative through its Indonesia factory.
Another primary concern is customer care. “We need to continue the mirror test,” Pamer states. “Do we clearly understand our channel customers’ business requirements and are we organizing, staffing, and training our team to be proactive and respond to these?” According to Pamer, the customer experience must be looked at in a wholistic manner and will include constant improvements to the showrooms, website, order fulfillment performance, and interaction with customer service teams. “All these touch points add up to how our customers feel about our brand,” he states.
With these new systems and targets in place, ELK executives are confident that this new decade will bring stronger relationships and loyalty with its customers.