Ferguson: An Interview with Sharon Helbert & Sam Rose

 Sharon Helbert, Program Manager/Lighting, and Sam Rose, director/Showrooms at Ferguson discuss buying trends at the Ferguson showrooms.

enlightenment Residential Lighting Magazine:  Ferguson Showroom

EnLIGHTenment Mag: Are more consumers coming into Ferguson to buy lighting as well as their kitchen/bath products, or is it more of a secondary purchase?

Sharon: We are seeing both scenarios.  In our more mature lighting locations, our branches have established themselves as a destination for the consumer who is shopping for lighting. We offer vast selection and professional, knowledgeable associates.  On the other hand, we have many locations that are still very new in the lighting category but not new to plumbing or appliances.  In the cases where a customer comes in shopping for these other categories, we now have the opportunity to incorporate lighting into their selection process.

EnLIGHTenment Mag: We saw some beautiful lighting fixtures in the Houston store on Richmond Avenue, where these photos were taken. Does the buyer of each showroom select the lighting for that location, or is the purchasing done at the corporate level?
Sharon: Each Ferguson branch selects the lighting that they display in their location from a select list of preferred vendors based on the needs of their customers.  There might be one individual that takes responsibility for making the selections or it can be a group effort where all of the lighting associates have input.  We continue to see the trend towards simpler, cleaner lines with touches of adornment such as crystal or shades.  Cooler, lighter tones are a nice contrast to the bronze finishes that have been so popular in recent years.

 EnLIGHTenment Mag: Tell us a bit about Ferguson’s approach. Do associates go over blueprints and help the client with selections for the entire room – including lighting – or do homeowners come in looking to buy one specific item?

Sam: Our product experts work with a wide variety of clients.  We’ve found that the mix of people visiting our showrooms has shifted.  Just a few years ago the vast majority of customers were doing either whole house selections for a new home or for a major remodel.  Today, we see just as many clients interested in replacing just a few fixtures to spruce up their homes.  We provide a seamless experience between online shopping at www.shopferguson.com and our personalized service at the showroom.

EnLIGHTenment Mag: Do you think consumers’ selections are becoming more upscale when it comes to their master baths or kitchens, with more luxurious materials and finishes?  Does it appear that they are seeking products that are beyond the basics?

Sharon: Absolutely.  These are the two spaces where the homeowner will spend a lot of their time and they want the rooms to have a certain appeal.  We continue to see a trend towards creating a spa-like experience in the master bath.  The fixtures are in warmer, richer materials such as Polished or Brushed Nickel. Homeowners are interested in using multiple light sources and incorporating decorative pieces as a focal point. In the kitchen, the pro-style appliances set the tone and everything from the countertops to the backsplash and the flooring plays a part in completing the look. The lighting is the finishing touch and is used to enhance the characteristics of all of the other products.

EnLIGHTenment Mag
: What do you think has influenced customers the most, is it TV shows, magazines, or seeing what their neighbors are doing? 

Sam: For the consumer, the availability of information is greater than ever before.  In addition to home improvement TV shows and shelter magazines providing inspiration to our clients, we are finding the influence of “friends and neighbors” to be a major factor in decision-making.  What is interesting is how “friends and neighbors” are defined today compared to the past.  When you say the word “friend” you may immediately think of Facebook.  The sharing of ideas on Facebook is definitely a factor in our showrooms today.  In addition, Web sites such as Pinterest.com and Houzz.com allow clients to find and share ideas with today’s definition of the word “neighbor.” We are also finding that 95% of consumers are visiting Web sites and doing online research of products before their visit.  We developed shopferguson.com as a “virtual” front door to our showrooms to allow our clients to begin to engage the Ferguson, Bath, Kitchen and Lighting brand at the idea-gathering stage of the project.

EnLIGHTenment Mag: Do you think that the state of the housing market has made people more committed to staying where they are instead of moving up? If so, are they outfitting their rooms a little more luxuriously?
Sam: We are definitely seeing a trend with today’s homeowners being more interested in upgrading their existing homes with products they love versus moving up. They may be willing to spend a little more on a kitchen or bath remodel to get the products they really want versus a remodel project with the intent to sell in a few years. I think this trend will continue as the job market and consumer confidence increase over time.

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