Buying groups aren’t just about purchasing volume anymore. The advantages for members have broadened to include marketing programs, business services, and recruiting tools.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Lighting One has a rich history as a cooperative for lighting showrooms. The group was founded under the name “Illucio” by several visionary showroom owners and was originally comprised of approximately 20 independent showrooms. Since 2001, Lighting One has been under the direction of CCA Global Partners, whose mission has been to empower entrepreneurs and independent business owners by providing the scale, resources, and innovation that create sustainability, growth, and effective competition in today’s evolving marketplace.
In 2006, 35-year lighting industry executive Gregg Garofalo came on board as President. He works closely with an Advisory Council that he describes as “a blend of leaders that includes men and women, multiple age groups, and volume purchasing scale. These leaders are open-minded and drive initiatives that benefit the group as a whole rather than just their own showrooms.”
Lighting One appreciates the history that many independent lighting showrooms have in their business communities.
“Our members have built their brands in the local markets they serve, and many are multi-generational family businesses. As a member of the Lighting One cooperative, they retain their independence while benefiting from the scale and resources that being affiliated with such a large group brings,” Garofalo states.
To create a national brand for members to affiliate with, Lighting One has increased its national presence to include a fresh rebrand and new tagline — “Making Spaces Shine.” Lighting One is now 151 members strong with 330 locations around the U.S. and Canada. That economy of size creates opportunities for promotional buys, special purchases with vendors, and member-only exclusive products that are made in America. On their own, independent showrooms are required to achieve certain purchase levels to earn rebates and program benefits. Lighting One members, due to their scale, earn rebates and incentives on all purchases from their initial join dates.
“Our goal is to ensure the sustainability for our members,” Garofalo says. “We are currently adding vendors in new categories including artwork, accessories, and home décor to help showrooms differentiate themselves from their competition. A great example is the ELK Group, who continues to develop numerous product offerings in the home décor category, providing a simple buying source for members. Additionally, some members now provide window treatments, security, and home technology. Lighting One encourages members to embrace these other categories with the understanding – from those already providing these categories – that this involves hiring new skilled staff that can adequately support this plan.
There are more benefits to members than purchasing power. Because of its numerous verticals, CCA is able to offer multiple scalable business proficiencies. Among them are:
Credit card processing savings compared to typical rates through Chase Bank
Consumer financing available with Synchrony
A staff recruiter and hiring program
Training, webinars, and networking
Call monitoring and follow-up education
An internal communications and networking solution called Members Net
A customizable showroom digital marketing and e-commerce solution
The Lighting One national website promotes showrooms’ highly trained and knowledgeable sales professionals, exclusive products, and the benefits of shopping at a local member showroom. Consumers visiting the site can type in their zip code and be directed to the local Lighting One showroom in their area.
Lighting One now provides marketing solutions that members can use to re-face their individual showroom website to mirror the national site. Users experience a seamless transition from national to local sites, which was a key goal of the Advisory Council in the planning of this site. While a turnkey solution, the local marketing program is customized for each member. There are 45 members participating in this initial phase.
Currently, Lighting One is piloting a complete exclusive ecommerce-enabled program that will be introduced at its June Convention. This catalog feature helps members showcase their Lighting One vendor partners, exclusive products, as well as other products.
“The Lighting One marketing team invested a tremendous amount of resources and time through pilot programs to ensure success and avoid pitfalls before rolling the new sites out,” Garofalo remarks. “They interviewed numerous consumers, designers, and trade professionals to learn what they look for in a showroom.”
“We invest a tremendous amount of time advocating for showrooms and helping them understand and implement marketing strategies that will help grow their businesses,” adds Member Services Coordinator Jessie Pine. “We are their partner. We listen to their individual needs and help them become familiar with marketing lingo to make the appropriate marketing decisions for them. We have learned so much, especially in regard to implementing ecommerce. It was important for us to take small steps, pilot new tools with a few members, and make sure they’re working well before we rolled them out to everyone.”
The Lighting One national marketing team provides support through networking phone calls with marketing program participants. These calls allow members to share experiences, best practices, and identify opportunities to enhance the program. The combination of the Lighting One marketing team and national partners reduces members’ time spent on the process and instead lets them focus on their businesses.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Lighting One has developed a Next Generation Council made up of next generation owners. This group participates with meetings and calls alongside the Lighting One Advisory Council as well as their own council calls to share their ideas and thoughts with Pine.
“They have an interesting outlook on what will make a showroom successful in the future,” Pine comments. “It’s motivating to listen to the way they think about things. I never hear them say ‘We’ve always done it that way.’ Instead, they have a ‘Why not?’ attitude. This group of future showroom owners have their finger on the pulse of what is happening now and can identify with how today’s — and tomorrow’s — customers want to shop, and how they react to various types of advertising.”
Lighting One has strong partnerships with industry leaders such as the American Lighting Association, (ALA) and the Dallas Market Center (DMC), which have proven beneficial for Lighting One members. “While we offer training on our programs and benefits, we rely on and support ALA for education,” Garofalo states. “Eric Jacobson, President of ALA, and I continue to work together on behalf of our industry to ensure its sustainability. They now have a presence at our convention, and we attend the ALA conference annually.
“I also believe strongly in what the DMC provides as the home to LIGHTOVATION twice a year,” Garofalo says. “In fact, we’ve committed our annual convention to coincide with the June LIGHTOVATION markets for the next five years because of our partnership. Members like the convenience of taking part in both events during one trip, and suppliers embrace the increased Lighting One membership attendance.”
This year’s Lighting One convention, held June 17-18, will focus on educating members on “The Future of Retail” and will host a session on “Leadership.” Marketing initiatives and networking roundtable workshops are also part of the program. The cooperative will host a 20th anniversary celebration gala on Tuesday, June 18 honoring the accomplishments of the membership, with over 275 members, suppliers, representatives, ALA, and Dallas Market Center team members.