Tripping the Lights Fantastic

enLightenment Magazine: Lights Fantastic
“It’s time to rethink lighting,” notes Jon Sayah, owner of Lights Fantastic retail store with two locations, one in Dallas and another in Austin. “Over the next five years, everything is going to change – not just in products, but the applications,” he explains.

Sayah is excited about the future and he’s eager to spread the news through his showrooms. Growing up in the lighting industry working for such illustrious firms as Stiffel Lamps and Lightolier, he knows the ins and outs of the lighting arena.

Jon’s father, Larry, bought a fluorescent assembler 45 years ago, a business that has grown to become Texas Fluorescents, which – thanks to its network of suppliers, in-house lighting engineers, and nimble assembly operation – provides turnkey solutions for light commercial projects, including high bay fluorescent lighting and retrofit/reflector kits. Two years after Larry bought the fluorescent company, he and his wife decided to expand into retail. Continue Reading

“In 1968, my parents couldn’t find any contemporary lighting in the Dallas area for their home, so they opened a store,” Jon explains. By the 1980s, one lighting showroom had turned into 35 throughout Texas. Unfortunately, along with the downturn in the economy, the late ‘80s brought a filing for Chapter 11. The two surviving stores have emerged all the stronger. “We’ve been in Dallas for 40 years and Austin for 30,” Sayah remarks.

The last few years have been pivotal for Lights Fantastic. “I decided to become more of a specialty retailer,” Sayah explains. “Over the last three years, we’ve tried to be – at our core – a great editor of lighting. New products have been so prevalent, with so many introductions coming out continuously that I don’t know how a customer deals with thousands of choices,” he says, adding, “I just know that, as a consumer myself, once I’m on a Web site that’s showing 100 pages of choices, I give up. It’s too overwhelming.”

Instead, Sayah embraced a new role: editor. “I figured that that if we could reduce the amount of product we show and become more selective in editing our assortment, it would ultimately help the consumer,” he comments. For example, in ceiling fans, Sayah narrowed down the thousands of options to “the best 100 ceiling fans” which took into consideration performance, looks, and other attributes.

“Over the past two years, it’s truly become apparent that the business is changing,” saya Sayah. LEDs are getting more sophisticated with each passing day and energy efficiency is a driving force in development not just as a result oflegislation but also because of necessity. The breakthroughs in technology and the consumers’ desire for sophisticated styling led to a new philosophy at Lights Fantastic. “We’re trying to position ourselves as the source that can provide the latest and greatest of what’s out there in the industry to consumers,” Sayah remarks.

Nowhere is this more important than with LEDs. “We get a tremendous amount of interest in LED products,” Sayah notes. “When we hold a seminar on LEDs, we easily get 100 people attending. You just mention the word ‘LED’ and they come in,” he states. The problem is that there is so much variation in the category.  “There are good LEDs and there are bad LEDs. At Lights Fantastic, we add value by our editing process. We don’t show all the LED products available, we show the ones that we think provide the most consistency and quality,” he clarifies.

Granted, Sayah is the first to admit that the LED category was slow to take off at first because there wasn’t a lot of product out there. Now there is, and it’s up to the lighting retailer to become the discerning expert in showing the best product for the application at hand. Continue Reading

enLightenment Magazine: Lights Fantastic

“Our number one competitor is the Internet,” Sayah says. “We have to get the word out that lighting technology is changing, and if consumers and designers want to know how it’s changing, they need to go to a lighting showroom,” he affirms. “With LEDs, selling lighting is going to be a whole different ballgame than in the past. At Lights Fantastic, we’re positioning ourselves to be that expert.”

To that end, Lights Fantastic actively courts the design community, regularly holding chapter meetings for the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), as well as groups of professional remodelers.

“We used to spend $100,000 a year on newspaper advertising,” Sayah reveals. “Now we put that money toward other initiatives.”  For example, the retailer recently offered its first

Groupon deal: spend $35 to receive a $100 gift card. An astounding 900 people made the purchase.

“We’ve changed the look of our showroom so much, that we wanted to get as many people as we could in to see it,” he says. The sizable discount was worth the expense because of the volume of foot traffic it generated.

The most jaw-dropping change in the Dallas showroom has been the transformation of the upstairs space. Formerly encompassing the offices for Texas Fluorescents, Sayah relocated that function to the Texas Fluorescents factory off-site. In its place, he established a designated “Design Center” that showcases the various products it sells in realistic settings. For Sayah, it was the most effectiveway to show designers, builders, remodelers, and homebuyers some of the most impressive possibilities available in lighting design.  Since LEDs are rather contemporary in appearance, the emphasis of the Design Center and downstairs showroom is on modern design.

Establishing Lights Fantastic as the source for LED lighting knowledge also means hiring qualified sales associates. Sayah often recruits from art and design schools in the Dallas and Austin areas to find people who are, above all else, design-oriented.  When it comes to LED education, he points out that even the most knowledgeable lighting salesperson has only about two years of LED experience because the category is still in its infancy. Therefore, bringing someone from outside the lighting industry up to speed on LEDs does not involve a steep learning curve requiring years of amassed study.

“I’d love it if every lighting showroom became as progressive as ours when it comes to LEDs,” Sayah comments. “If [lighting retailers] start promoting their expertise in LED, then the consumers will think twice before making a purchase and will come into a lighting showroom to learn more about the choices available. My hope is to get people everywhere excited about lighting!”

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Tripping the Lights Fantastic

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