The lighting industry’s relationship with interior designers has been complicated. When I entered the lighting world in 1994, most manufacturers were opposed to opening accounts with individual designers, to the point that a few stated they were not even welcome to browse in their High Point Market showrooms. Similarly, lighting stores weren’t receptive to interior designers either, claiming that the relationship was more involved and time-intensive compared to the number (or pricetag) of the products sold. Their hands were full supplying the needs of builders and developers, whose businesses were growing in leaps and bounds nationwide.
With that sort of reception, it’s not surprising that designers took their business elsewhere. When the housing bubble burst, nearly half of that builder revenue went with it. And while the Recession was deemed “over” by 2009, the construction industry hasn’t recovered and will probably never reach those previous building boom levels. Suddenly, reaching out to interior designers seemed to make good business sense — especially since the luxury category has been thriving before, during, and after the Recession.
Not so fast, however. Having had to find alternative sources for the lighting fixtures and lamps they’ve needed for projects, many interior designers weren’t quick to forge relationships with lighting showrooms, especially if the trade discount was slight. Lighting manufacturers fared better with establishing designer accounts, much to the chagrin of their distributors.
So herein lies the problem: the mid- to high-end interior design business is strong — and everybody wants a piece of the action. Manufacturers and lighting showrooms want to partner with interior designers, but without tripping over one another.
In this month’s feature story, prominent interior designers and lighting showrooms discuss this delicate balance and brainstorm suggestions for making the relationship between lighting professionals and designers stronger and beneficial to all.
Lighting technology has evolved so much since the 1990s, it’s hard for any design professional outside of the industry to keep up. Lighting showroom salespeople have an incredible amount of cutting-edge knowledge to share with interior designers that can help them provide truly innovative solutions for their clients. It’s time to come together, share the knowledge, and form lasting and mutually profitable partnerships.