enLIGHTenment magazine is proud to present the winners of our annual awards honoring those individuals in our industry who have been nominated by their peers for leading by example, standing out in their field, and inspiring others.
Todd Director: Executive Vice President, Connecticut Lighting Centers/Restoration Lighting Gallery | Hartford, Connecticut
How did you enter the lighting business?
I’ve been coming to the [family’s] showroom since I was young. While I was in high school, I worked in the warehouse and other back-of-house areas as a summer job. When I was in college, majoring in Marketing, I began working on the sales floor during summers. My father [David] didn’t encourage me one way or the other as to whether to make the business my career or to blaze my own path in another industry; he let me make up my mind on my own. After college, I decided to enter the business full-time and worked in Sales for the first four to five years.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve seen?
The whole business climate has changed with the way people shop and the presence of the internet. [After the economic downturn], one change we made was to expand into different categories such as decorative hardware and motorized window shades to bring more people in the door. While we always offered home décor items, we went more heavily into mirrors and accessories.
A nice change I’ve seen is younger customers coming in; the amount of couples who come in with baby carriages on a Saturday is staggering. We’ve done a decent job of branding ourselves in the local community by advertising on TV, radio, and other platforms. If someone in our area is shopping for lighting, we make sure that they’ll come across our business — and that’s not cheap to do! We’re extremely competitive in price, but we don’t bring people in based on price. The only [advantage] online sellers have is price. For the average person who shops at our store, price doesn’t make the top 3 criteria of what they’re looking for.
What do you think has been the key to your success?
Part of it has been the lessons I’ve learned from my father and grandfather. From day one, my father had me involved in not just what goes on in the back of the business (like finance and back-office functions), but also what goes on in front of the customers. I have a decent understanding of what works – and doesn’t work – in our business.
What has been the best advice your father gave you?
He taught me that you must work on your business as well as in your business. You can’t just do one without the other. I work on the sales floor every Saturday; we all do. Practically everybody at our showroom, with the exception of accounting, is working on either a Saturday or Sunday because the weekends are very busy days for us. Eight out of 10 shoppers who come in, leave with a box. For that reason, it’s important for us to stock what we sell. You have to supply your customers with what they’re looking for when they want it.
What does the future hold for showrooms?
I don’t see brick-and-mortar showrooms ever going away; I don’t think the selling experience will be going fully digital. I think the future will be about utilizing the [technology] tools to make the shopping experience better. I can see market [and foot traffic] picking up with the introduction of lighting controls, LED, and [new systems]. Customers will be looking to see and touch the product and with technology changing so rapidly, they’ll be looking for expertise.