Nimble retailers up the tempo in an oft-overlooked category
Whenever a new furniture store opens, it’s safe to say that more thought goes into lighting the merchandise on the sales floor than how to actually increase sales in the lighting category itself. But retailers who relegate lighting to little more than a selection of portables displayed on end tables and nightstands are missing a significant opportunity.
Retail strategist Connie Post has seen retailers make the same mistake over and over. “For years furniture retailers have largely ignored the opportunity for add-on sales of chandeliers and fixtures—giving the business away to big-boxes that specialize in affordable lighting like Lowe’s and Home Depot,” she says. “That’s a shame considering chandeliers are one of the products often changed when a consumer purchases a new home, or when they feel like an update in the entry, dining room or even in the master bedroom.”
In her own furniture store designs, Post has begun to emphasize lighting departments with ceiling clouds, a concept that enables retailers to cluster several chandeliers at once. “Whether 6×8 or 4×4, we need to look at this as cubic space that is not being utilized,” says Post. “By maximizing space and offering a concentrated commitment to the lighting category, we realize amazing add-on sales and greater profits.”
Most recently, Post demonstrated her concept in two RoomPlace stores with ceiling clouds hung above accent galleries. Each features four to six chandeliers. “We placed these galleries at the store entries so customers would know immediately that RoomPlace is committed to the category,” she says. “Then we place chandeliers throughout the store in living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms. You’ll see gorgeous chandeliers hung by a sofa, or in the corner of a room, and multiple chandeliers over tables which is very on-trend. Consumers are seeing this in all the specialty catalogs and they see it as a very updated look.”
On a larger scale, Post installed a 30-foot lighting gallery at The Showroom in Denver. “There are multiple effects with different lighting clouds, and risers beneath featuring desk lighting and table lamps, and cubbies with more portables. It’s a huge commitment and I believe this 170,000-square-foot furniture store will be changing the way we shop in the future.”
Lighting the Way
HFA member Cherie Rose, president of The Rose Collection in Los Gatos, Calif., has been known for elegant home furnishings and interior design for nearly three decades. Located on Santa Cruz Avenue, the 2,500-square-foot shop coupled with a design center of equal size is staffed with five interior designers. Smack dab in the center of Silicon Valley on what Rose claims may be the most exclusive street in the country, Rose says her clientele is not “a looky-looky crowd. They are coming in here to buy.”
With a reputation throughout the industry for heavy accessorizing, it’s not surprising that lighting plays a significant role. “You can’t even see the ceiling in here because I have so many light fixtures hanging from it,” she relates. “I use every square inch, and every table top has a lamp or floor lamp. I am lighting excessively in my store, and I make sure that every single light and lamp is plugged in and lit 24/7. When people walk by my store at night, it glows.”
Rose began her career as a general contractor. “My first store focused on paint and wallpaper. I still do the building and remodeling, but over time I discovered my true passion was the design portion, and that eventually evolved into a home furnishings store. The accessorizing became important because I wanted to deliver a complete package. I wanted to start a job at the very beginning of the construction and design phase and take them right through the final accessory, which I think of as putting the bow on the package. Until then, the project is not complete.”
In fact, Rose “always tell clients they have to leave 20 to 30-percent on the table for the final details.” Then, she never performs a delivery sans accessorizing. “If I deliver a coffee table, I deliver accessories for it,” she says.
“The customers have never seen it, have no idea what I’m bringing out, but believe me it’s on the truck and there’s a plan for it. Once it’s in the house I give them 48-hours approval, and if they decide it’s not for them, we’ll come back and pick it up.”
Rose says only about 5 percent of the lighting and accessories she loads on a truck finds its way back to the store.
“There’s profit in accessories because the mark-up is so much higher than it is on anything else. All my designers are on salary plus commission and when you add on the commission with all those accessories, that’s what sets them over the top and makes everybody want to come and work for me. The average sale on my floor is roughly $3,000-$5,000, but the accessories finish the look and make all the difference in referrals and future business. If they are coming to us, it’s because they want the complete package. People have personal trainers and doctors for a reason. My biggest competitor these days may be the internet, but the thing the online retailers cannot offer is service. Either you have to be a big-box retailer that has everything, or you have to be me, taking care of every single detail from start to finish.”
Illuminating Lifestyle Trends
Kathy McMahon, owner of Urban Home Market in Birmingham, Ala., focuses on lifestyle with unique products that can’t be
found everywhere else. “People come to us to furnish a room and we take it from beginning to end, accessorizing and lighting it,” she says.
“Our designers understand that lighting is about creating a mood and an ambience. It’s the really the personality of the room.”
Inside the 17,000-square-foot store, shoppers “look to us for both contemporary, but upscale looks since we’re very close to the metropolitan area about 20 minutes south of us,” explains Robin Greene, interior designer. “And we also offer chandeliers and lamps with more rustic flair. We think of it as sophisticated elegance with a rustic layer.”
Vendors range from Aidan Gray light fixtures to Uttermost, Bramble and Gabby chandeliers, and the sweet spot on table lamps is between $150 and $250.
“We try to have affordable product for the marketplace, but it really does range,” notes Kaitlyn McMahon, Kathy’s daughter, “with massive, black iron globes as large as 50- to 60-inches-round among the showstoppers. Customers may choose in-home consultations for a minimal fee, but one of the things that makes us unique is that we sell off the floor.
Customers here love that they can get their design job done fast, but they also know the store will look different every single time they walk in here. That’s harder on us, because we’re constantly moving the store around, but we believe it’s paid off in the long run.”
Spotlighting a Region
When Home Depot moved in near her husband’s paint store and began “selling paint for what he paid for it,” Ellie Ferguson knew the time had come for a change. The couple decided a weekend at their cabin in Big Bear Lake, Calif. was in order. “We stopped in a local store and the fellow told us that a business similar to ours had just been listed. We bought it about a week later. That was in 1990.”
Today, Haus & Home is a full-line furniture store approximately 2,300-square-feet in size with an attached 1,800-square-foot mattress store serving this resort community situated some 6,500 feet high in the mountains. “We have real variety up here,” Ferguson says. “Unlike down the other side of the mountain in Orange County, you can still buy something reasonably priced here, and there are a lot of retirees who want to stay close to their children and grandchildren, but don’t want to live in that congestion.”
Lighting accounts for approximately 14 percent of sales here, often with a mountain lodge theme. Vendors, culled from buying trips to the Las Vegas Market include Corona and CAL Lighting, as well as Crestview and Pacific Coast Lighting. The most popular items, however, are the upscale antler chandeliers which are priced in the thousands depending on size. High season usually hits in the dead of winter. “That’s when people typically realize they don’t have enough lighting in their home to find an adequate place to read,” she says. “We always see an increase.”
A New Light in the Arts District
After receiving HFA’s Emerging Star award last year, Cynthia Heathcoe, owner of Contemporary Living in Lake Park, Fla., was ready for a new challenge. “I had a lot of wasted square footage in my previous location, so I started scouting for another spot,” she relates. She found what she was looking for about five miles south in the burgeoning Lake Park Arts District and will have completed her move by publication time.
“We had always featured local artists and often had events in conjunction with them,” Heathcoe says. “So, this move seemed absolutely perfect for us. It’s larger than the one I’m in by a few hundred feet, but I’m able to maximize every square foot in the new space. It’s got a completely different vibe and energy that will allow me to grow and do the things within the business that I want to do.”
While the thrust will still be contemporary design, she plans to flex her creative muscles in the lighting category. “Before I did the typical thing in lighting and I really didn’t have the room to do more than that. But I’ve always believed lighting should be more than just functional. The pieces I’ve ordered—from Nova Lighting and Vida Copenhagen—are more like pieces of art. They’re lightweight, airy and easy to move around, and they’re fun, which to me, is the most important aspect.”
Heathcoe cut her teeth at Roche Bobois before striking out on her own. “I loved their lighting because their pieces really stood out, but unfortunately, that’s too high-end for the average consumer. What I want to do with Contemporary Living is give shoppers that high-end, artistic look, but make it accessible, and the new space really lends itself to that.”