Renowned German manufacturer SLV makes its official U.S. debut at the Dallas market.
Contemporary lighting manufacturer SLV has enjoyed a solid reputation in Europe for the past 32 years before taking the plunge to enter the American market. This was not a decision the company took lightly. SLV executives sought out the expertise of a variety of lighting professionals, one of which was Steve Parker, LC, who was the president of the U.S. division of ballast, transformer, and LED driver supplier Lightech for many years. Parker is not only well-versed in all aspects of lighting components, but has relevant experience as a U.S. distributor for a reputable, international company.
Together, Parker and SLV spent approximately two years developing an in-depth plan to ready the comprehensive lighting line for the American market. Some European manufacturers have attempted to tap the U.S. market in the past, but had to pull out due to complications in complying with North American safety standards after they had already established a U.S. office and distribution center.
“We did the opposite,” Parker explains. “We built the infrastructure first and covered all of the safety listing concerns regarding the U.S. and Canada. In fact, we have ETL and C-ETL files for the entire catalog excluding recessed. Then we set up the warehouse in Tampa and once that was complete, we opened for business.”
Another aspect to SLV’s success overseas is its commitment to quality control. With 60+ manufacturing partners all over the world, the company takes great care that every specification is followed to the letter.
“We pick and choose our suppliers very carefully,” Parker states. “Every component, dimension, and material is specified.” An independent inspection organization ensures that the quality is consistent. “Our specifications don’t shoot from the hip. For example, we conduct paint testing all over the planet,” he adds. There are tests in humid environments like Florida, very dry climates like Arizona, extensive saltwater testing for corrosion resistance, and UV testing to evaluate fading. How exact are the specifications? For example, there are approximately 400 shades of white, according to Parker.
The U.S. headquarters’ distribution center is also outfitted with a cutting-edge, very narrow aisle racking system. “Most racking systems are a C shape; ours is a square for greater stability. Many of our fixtures are corten steel, which is similar to cast iron, so we need a system that is beyond the average,” Parker explains. The warehouse is equipped with state-of-the-art turret forklifts that can reach 25 feet in the air and operate via an RF signal embedded in the floor. The RF signal is what controls the machine, rather than the operator. “This ensures safe operation since there’s no human error,” he comments.
A glance at the warehouse space shows another key difference in the SLV facility. The aisles are much more narrow than in a standard warehouse. In fact, the aisles are only wide enough to fit the special forklifts. “From a safety standpoint, this is unique because a person can’t fall out of the machine,” Parker remarks. The narrow aisles also permit the company to maximize inventory levels. Out of the company’s 3,000+ items, 98 percent are in stock in Germany 100 percent of the time. “We are trying to do the same starting with the top 600 items. Our typical delivery is within two weeks,” he says.
“No one is quite like us,” Parker says. “Before bringing a product to market, we look at its potential to make sure it can be sold at the right price. Our premise is to offer great quality and great-looking lighting at a reasonable price. We also can deliver very quickly. It’s a combination of all of those things that are our strength.”
The company’s concentration is the contemporary market. “It may be a small section of the market, but we feel it is the fastest-growing, especially because of LED technology,” Parker says. A stickler for quality components, SLV only accepts “less than three” out of 100 LED sources that are submitted to the company. “Are we picky? Yup. But it’s our name on the product and not the LED manufacturer. When the light goes out, the customer is going to turn to us,” he explains.
A manufacturer offering more than 3,000 luminaires might seem overwhelming, however, SLV customers appreciate the wide variety and one-stop-shop aspect of ordering from this company. The line ranges from outdoor fixtures, mini and large pendants, recessed fixtures, table and floor lamps, task lamps, suspended fixtures with fabric shades, accent lighting, step lights, and more.
“People look at our catalog and say they can build their showroom around it,” Parker recounts. “I strongly believe that people have to see the fixtures to truly appreciate the quality,” he says. Fortunately, retailers will have that opportunity during the Dallas market, where SLV is exhibiting in the Spectrum showroom on the third floor of the Trade Mart. The company will be featuring a modest selection of outdoor fixtures, sconces, and task lamps. “We’ll be showing a good balance of our line,” he states. SLV even specified custom displays from Boston Retail to show the products off in the most efficient and attractive way.
“We’re the new guy on the block. We realize that there are companies out there with great reputations, therefore we have to try harder [to make our mark]. Our facility in Tampa is filled with engineers and power supply experts,” Parker remarks. “We go out of our way for customer service. We’re in this for the long haul and have a great team.”