flexiblefullpage - default

2018: State Of Business

With one quarter of 2018 behind us, how optimistic are small business owners in the lighting and home furnishings industry feeling? We asked. They answered. Here's what we found.

Katie Caron
Printer Friendly, PDF & Email
Main Street with shops and an American flag on a sunny day with some clouds
Small Town Main Street By Michael Shake via Adobe Stock

The National Small Business Association (NSBA), a nonpartisan lobbying group, found in its 2017 year-end survey that more than one-third of small business owners feel very confident about their business’s future — the highest level in more than 10 years. This is thanks to factors like recent tax reforms and the strength of the U.S. economy.

With one full quarter of 2018 under their belts, just how optimistic are small business owners in the lighting and home furnishings industry feeling? What is their outlook moving forward, and how are they staying relevant? We asked retailers around the country.

Cautious Optimism

Molly Day, Vice President of Public Affairs at NSBA, says many small business owners are still wrapping their minds around tax reforms and waiting to see how they’ll be impacted. While the effects of tax reform remain to be seen, businesses are seeing the effects of a strong and growing economy.

Stewart Smoler, co-owner of design-oriented home furnishings store Allens Home in Omaha, NE, is seeing the benefits of a healthy economy reflected in his showroom traffic. He senses that consumers are making home-related investments because they’re in good spirits and feeling confident about their own futures. But despite the solid foot traffic, he’s not resting on his laurels.

“‘Cautious’ definitely pervades our thinking, but that being said, you have to have a store that looks good, you have to have inventory and you have to appeal to people,” Smoler says. “You’re cautious at every turn, but you still have to be out there.”

Steve Derakhshan, Vice President of Lights of Tuscany in San Diego, CA, says while his business is doing well since the economy and home buying are thriving, he’s wary about the growing deficit and its future implications. Since he’s been in business since 1993, he knows all too well the ups and downs the economy can take. 

“You have to be prepared, you have to have reserves and you can’t just count on things always being good as a retailer,” Derakhshan says, adding that his current optimism about the economy is limited to the next few months.

2018 and Beyond

While much of the health of retail depends on the strength of the economy, anyone in the industry knows it takes hard work to keep doors open and stay relevant in this climate. 

To stay competitive in his market, Derakhshan began transitioning the bulk of his business to e-commerce about five years ago. About 90 percent of his sales are now made online. This strategy, along with his focus on a small, niche market — high-end custom Spanish revival fixtures — give him the ability to compete with giants like Amazon. 

For Tim Preg, owner of Lighten Up Seattle in Seattle, WA, staying relevant comes down in part to a focus on offering a unique service — lighting repairs and restoration — along with hand-crafted products. He has also prioritized search engine optimization (SEO) to help people find his two-year-old business online. SEO work proved easier than he thought, and his business is reliably a top Google result for “lighting repair Seattle.”

While things are looking good in the short term, business owners like Smoler — who saw many home furnishings businesses shut their doors during the Great Recession — understand the importance of staying competitive and investing in the long-term health of their business.

“It takes so much effort to keep your business running. You have to be at the top of your game across the board,” he says. “You just have to be tenacious to keep going in this environment.”

leaderboard2 - default