Fresh from the official launch of the “LED Experience Center” – a powerful demonstration room that explores the opportunities now available in LED lighting – at Light Bulbs Etc. in Costa Mesa, Calif., last month, the point was driven home as to how much the industry has evolved.
When I first began covering the industry in the 1990s, showrooms were highly competitive with one another and typically would never have allowed a distributor to have a look around. The idea of lighting showroom owners today encouraging fellow retailers to come in and observe their forward-thinking merchandising is as novel as the presentations themselves.
When Larry and Jon Sayah of Lights Fantastic in Texas decided to revolutionize what a lighting showroom should look like – dubbing their vision “the showroom of the future” – in 2012, they publicly invited their peers to take a look at their gallery-like space. It was that spirit of openness and sharing that inspired other leaders, most recently the founders of Light Bulbs Etc. to devote a portion of their showroom to a similar concept and invite the architectural community as well as their industry friends. The renovation plans were announced nearly one year ago during the ALA Conference and it finally came time for the big reveal.
What’s led to this unprecedented camaraderie among lighting folks is the changing retail-scape. Instead of local stores competing with one another, the last 10 years have spawned scores of Internet sites and other channels for consumers to purchase the same goods. Nipping on the heels of that change is the rapidly developing world of LED technology. Coming from the electronics industry, the incredibly fast development of LEDs for practical and decorative illumination has been like learning a foreign language to the average independent lighting store. Suddenly nearly everyone in the residential lighting field is on the same learning curve — and if you think that has been a daunting education for the lighting professional, just imagine it from the viewpoint of an interior designer, builder, or consumer.
We are all trying to figure it out together. What these cutting-edge showrooms are doing is taking a giant leap forward in doing business differently. The focus isn’t on whether another retailer is selling bulbs cheaper across town. It’s about helping customers find the proper bulbs or lighting systems to achieve the effects they want.
The large bulb companies have done a great job of informing consumers and designers about the advantages of LED and generating interest; however, having a ready inventory of LED products doesn’t do a lighting showroom any good if the staff doesn’t show how to use them properly. It’s time to get the word out about your expertise to your community.