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Elevating Experience: Showroom of the Year Finalist Profiles

This year’s Showroom of the Year finalists put customer experience first.

By Diane Falvey & Gianna Annunzio
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What makes a lighting retailer “Showroom of the Year” worthy? It’s that special attention to customer needs and the creative ways these retailers meet them. Every good retailer knows the customer comes first, but these standout lighting showrooms — our 14th annual finalists — have elevated the customer experience.   From product selection to constantly changing merchandising to education to listening, the retailers on our pages have gone above and beyond for their customers, delivering in ways that bring them back again and again.

For lighting retailers, it’s not just about lighting. Many of this year’s finalists include complementary categories with their lighting, a way to help customers visualize how products might look in their homes, along with offering add-on sales opportunities. Retailers are also showcasing technology to educate customers and provide a one-stop shopping experience. We congratulate our finalists — and all those who entered this year — and we hope to see you in Dallas at Lightovation for our Showroom of the Year Awards Celebration on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. You are all winners in our book.


Under $2 Million

Alcott & Bentley, Lousville, KY

Entering the Alcott & Bentley showroom is an experience unlike any other. It appeals to the senses with its interactive lighting display, signature scent, eclectic music playlist and curated vingettes to showcase a unique display of lighting. Tiffany Zipperle, Showroom Manager, says merchandising is a top priority. “We are in a historic part of town with a slogan of ‘Keep Louisville Weird’ and a high level of foot traffic,” she says. “As an independently owned, single-location showroom, we have the flexibility to quickly respond to design trends with our ever-changing merchandise. We get frequent visits from repeat customers. Our goal is for them to see the showroom in a different light with each experience.”

Alcott & Bentley’s lighting designers also give the same level of service to each customer, whether they are updating a single fixture or planning to light an entire home. The team creates lighting designs that fit individual lifestyles, ensuring both function and beauty while providing high standards of personal service in a world of online shopping.

“With each service, we ensure the process is flawless and enjoyable,” Zipperle says. “In an ecommerce world and access to products 24/7, our mission is to prevent our customers from wasting time and energy searching the internet for the perfect lighting solution.”

The group’s mission also includes being a contributing member of the community, bringing a creativity and passion for the arts to ensure the technical needs of lighting are met while maintaining a personalized aesthetic.

“We contribute to the beautification of our community by collaborating with local restaurants, boutique hotels, art galleries and other public spaces with our unique approach to lighting design,” she says. “We take the same care and attention to detail with commercial projects as we do residential and enjoy celebrating our completed projects as a team to enjoy a job well done and strengthen our relationships out of the showroom.”

Alcott & Bentley’s unyielding perseverance has allowed the business to grow and morph to what it is today. The team is committed to enhancing the lives of its local community by educating, servicing and selling our passion for lighting by design.


First Choice Electric Supply, Newark, NY

First Choice Electric Supply has been making impressive strides since opening its doors just eight months ago. The company’s unique marketing strategies have been largely led by 23-year-old Kaitlyn Ruffalo, Inside Sales Representative, who has capitalized on platforms geared toward younger generations, such as TikTok, to increase their reach. First Choice’s website is also fully equipped for online sales and features an online catalog, which has helped to garner even more attention.

Ruffalo has emphasized the importance of the company’s digital presence, stating that their website has been a huge help in attracting customers to their products. Although the showroom is still in the process of adding more displays, Ruffalo says that the online catalog has allowed customers to see the options in person and then go home to think about their lighting choices.

“There are so many different options in the lighting industry, and sometimes small variations of one product,” she says. “To have that catalog where people can come into our showroom, see things in person, and then go home and think about it — we’ve already seen that help tremendously.”

In addition to their digital efforts, First Choice Electric Supply has created a welcoming atmosphere in their showroom, with just the right amount of lighting displays to avoid overwhelming customers. Ruffalo says that customers have praised the space for being clean, cozy and professional. “There have been numerous times where they come into our store after being in a bigger lighting showroom and they say how inviting our showroom is,” she says. “They explain how they feel they can truly relax while weighing all of their lighting options without feeling bombarded with too many options.”

Beyond their business efforts, First Choice Electric Supply has also been actively involved in the community, participating in events such as Small Business Saturday and hosting a Business After Hours event for other local businesses and community members. The company is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and strives to show their dedication to the community and their customers.

“[During Small Business Saturday] residents were instructed to start at a local salon to receive a stocking, and then take a list of participating businesses and go to each of them to fill up their stocking with small gifts and goodies,” Ruffalo says. “Any opportunity that arises, we try to be involved. We want to be forward facing and let people in our community know we care about them, as well as the village itself.”


LED Capstone, Vero Beach, FL

LED Capstone is not just a lighting showroom — it’s a community-driven design center that is passionate about turning its clients’ visions into reality. Nestled in Vero Beach, FL, LED Capstone offers a vast array of lighting options and services, including custom lighting, art lighting and turtle lighting. Since transitioning from boat lighting to a full-fledged showroom and design center in 2019, the store has experienced tremendous growth, both in traffic and revenue. Flo Howe, Marketing & Sales, played a crucial role in this transformation by creating a Designer Program and propelling LED Capstone into the world of lighting design.

“[After the transition], designers were able to come in and work with clients, and if professionals wanted LED Capstone to assist, they were there for that as well,” says Howe. “Soon we had a very busy showroom.”

Today, LED Capstone helps drive the LED lighting design market, specializing in custom projects and high-quality household fixtures, fans and more. The company’s President & CEO, Mitchel Zavala, is also an ALA Certified Lighting Specialist, ensuring that the team understands the importance of lighting and design both inside and outside the home. As a dedicated design center, LED Capstone takes pride in helping clients develop personalized lighting plans that meet their needs and preferences.

“I love helping to create a beautiful space in a client’s home, so every time they walk in, they look at their lighting and fans, and they smile!” says Howe.

LED Capstone is also dedicated to community involvement, donating lighting and fans to several organizations, including the Humane Society Thrift Store, Youth Guidance Mentoring Academy and Coastal Connections Sea Turtle Preservation. They’re also committed to lighting education, offering LED lighting classes to design students and professors, and helping place students in internships with industry professionals. Their annual
Architects/Designers Lunch & Learn even helps architects and designers earn their CEUs.

“If we were to win the Showroom of the Year Award, that achievement would be transmitted to our customers on a daily basis,” says Zavala. “Even now, we reassure and give them the satisfaction and confidence of knowing they are working with finalists.”


One Source Lighting, Billings, MT

Lauri Patterson, owner of One Source Lighting, had originally set her sights on a career in TV reporting after majoring in communications. However, fate had other plans in store for her. When an opportunity arose to run a lighting showroom in Billings, MT, she couldn’t resist — that was nearly 20 years ago.

“In college, I worked in a lighting showroom, so I already had some years of experience under me,” she says. “I eventually bought my partner out completely about eight years ago. October 1 of this year will be two decades since we opened One Source together.”

Standing at just over 2,500 square feet of space, One Source is small but mighty. Whether customers come in for a small fixture, or to select lighting for a million-dollar home, all receive the same level of service, knowledge and friendliness. The team’s attention to detail is also second to none, as they strive to create spaces that not only look stunning but are also functional and comfortable for their clients.

“We don’t look for just the prettiest light, or the one that lights the best,” she says. “We look for both, and want both of those attributes in every fixture.”

One Source also utilizes technology to help clients visualize how their home will look with their new lighting package. Clients are able to pull up blueprints on the store’s Design Space computer, and develop a lighting plan right before their eyes via Photoshop.

“We’ve received a lot of really good feedback about that, and it’s so much easier than flipping through a catalog and then flipping back to see how each light fits into the space,” Patterson says. “We’re able to pull their plans into Photoshop, and they can see their entire package as we build it.”

Patternson and her team also co-spearheaded an initiative to “Light Up Broadway,” the main street in downtown Billings. The team strung lights across the streets from building to building, creating a stunning curtain of light that has become a beloved landmark for locals and tourists alike.

“It’s the heart of our city,” she says. “We created this large curtain of light, and people love it. Our Chamber of Commerce and our tourism department even use photos of it in marketing pieces. When I say we sponsor community initiatives, I don’t mean just write a check!”


Tidewater Lighting & Design, Madison, CT

With two years of success under its belt and an expansion from 1,700 to 3,200 square feet, Tidewater Lighting & Design has become a hidden gem within its ocean community. Customers from near and far are drawn to the store’s unique coastal aesthetic, which is reflected in every detail of the showroom. From a front counter with a resin ocean painted on top, to antique doors from old sea captains’ homes in a deep nautical blue, Tidewater’s charm is something owner Carla Snowdon takes pride in.

“The uniqueness of our whole store is just unique within itself,” Snowdon says. “Tidewater is constantly changing displays and keeping its look fresh for customers.”

Though Tidewater isn’t just about looks; the store is dedicated to educating everyone who walks through the door, and finding exactly what customers are looking for. The showroom is divided into “clouds” of lighting fixtures, grouped by style and finish, so visitors can compare lighting until they find a perfect fit. Brasses for example, are placed together in multiple finishes so customers can visualize each of them in real time. “You’d see a brass pendant, brass chandelier, etc.,” she says. “One vendor’s brass is going to be different from others, and others…so everything is grouped and categorized at eye-level. We want people to see, touch and feel the fixtures, and know what they’re going to look like within the home. We try to be very realistic with customers, and show them as many options as possible.” If they’re still not sure, Snowdon is also happy to lend out a fixture or lamp so they can see how it looks in their home before making a final decision. “I have been in lighting for more than 30 years,” she says. “I am a Certified Lighting Consultant. With that being said, no matter how long I have been in the industry and no matter what title I hold, at the end of the day it is all about how you treat people. We care that the customer’s purchase is the right one and they are satisfied with the way it is going to look in the home. Educating is first, and selling is last.”


$2 Million to $5 Million

Christie’s Lighting Gallery, Fletcher, NC

Kristie Spino followed in her father’s footsteps — with a slightly different category — when she opened her first lighting showroom in Fletcher, NC, in 2008. While the timing was not the best, the concept for Christie’s Lighting Gallery couldn’t have been better. Spino’s dad had built a design center, but it lacked a lighting element. Spino knew she wanted to move from Michigan, and when she had the opportunity after her move to North Carolina, she went for it with her lighting showroom.

What differentiates Christie’s Lighting Gallery is the company’s attention to design. In addition to lighting, Christie’s sells furniture, accent pieces, art and lamps. “We really put a focus on design and our showroom reflects that,” Spino says. “Three members of our staff are interior designers.” She adds that with a focus on design, the showroom is constantly changing to bring new merchandise forward and ensure that customers are getting a unique experience each time they enter the showroom.

Beyond the design perspective — ensuring that a fixture will compliment the space it’s headed for — Spino also tasks her staff with understanding the technical side of lighting to ensure her customers are happy with the choices they make.

“Our staff education is never-ending,” Spino says. “We use ALA resources and we have our own training process as well. We review such things as rules of thumb on placement of lighting, and we cover light output. Any new hire is made aware that it will take a full year before they’re up to speed.” Spino makes sure her staff is up to date on all things lighting via weekly or bi-weekly meetings as well as quarterly trainings. “We rely heavily on our sales reps, and we have lunch and learns, webinars and other training courses.” The retailer also features spaces where clients and customers can be educated and see how different light colors and temperatures will affect the surroundings.

That client base is made up of consumer retail customers as well as a good mix of interior designer and builder trade clientele.

Focused on continuing her father’s family atmosphere, Christie’s Lighting Gallery is also an integral part of its community. Each October the retailer partners with Hope Chest for Women, an organization that raises money to help offset the costs for Western North Carolinians going through breast or gynecolgoical cancer treatments, a cause that’s close to Spinos’ heart. Over the past several years, the retailer has raised and donated more than $17,000 to the local cause.

Christie’s Lighting Gallery has been so successful over the last few years, they’ve opened a new location, in Greenville, SC, about 45 minutes from the Fletcher store. “We were getting so many customers from South Carolina and making deliveries there, it made sense to open a new location and tap into that market,” Spino notes. We’ll likely be seeing more of Christie’s Lighting Gallery in years to come!


Georgia Lighting, Sugar Hill, GA

This is Frank Therrien’s second nod for Showroom of the Year. Last year, just after he’d opened Georgia Lighting, in Sugar Hill, GA, (just outside of Atlanta), Georgia Lighting was the winner in the Under $2 million category. This year, showing proof of concept, the retailer has raising revenue up well over $2 million a year. “We’ve more than doubled our revenue from 2021 to 2022,” Therrien says.

What makes Georgia Lighting special? At 8,500 square feet, it’s certainly not the largest lighting showroom in the Atlanta area. “Our customers regularly tell us we have the freshest and best selections they’ve seen,” says Therrien. “We are constantly updating our displays.”

As Georgia Lighting gets more grounded in its community, Therrien continues that more than a third of his business is coming from new building construction. He attributes the boost in business this year to good location, good product selection, a good staff and word of mouth. While he’d like to get marketing efforts out there to continue to build business, Therrien is being careful to scale in a way that allows him to service his customers properly. “Sales efforts are often to replace customer attrition,” he says. Why does that have to happen? If we delight the current customers, you don’t lose them to the competition.”

To ensure that stellar customer service, Georgia Lighting has dedicated sales staff and field technicians, a staff that has grown over the year along with the company’s revenue. Where last year, Georgia Lighting had two branded vehicles, they now have five, which is a great advertising opportunity for the retailer as well.

Probably one of the most important elements that has helped Georgia Lighting thrive is attention to the customer. Therrien makes sure his staff is well-educated on the nuances of lighting so they can help teach the customers how to choose the best fixtures for their needs. Education comes via sales meetings, ALA courses and, of course, manufacturer reps and partners. Beyond lighting, Georgia Lighting also carries other furnishings — accent furniture, wall art and accessories, for example. “We show over 1,000 items in the showroom,” Therrien says. “It’s a constant vigil. We change every room in the showroom on a regular basis.” This month, the retailer has a huge tent sale, to make room for new items coming in the next few months. These changes also keep the staff excited about what’s happening in the store.

To ensure the customers’ needs are met (beyond selection and education), they are always greeted with enthusiasm by friendly staff, often with a smile or a joke. Therrien notes that he gave up his office to have his workstation right in the showroom where customers and staff have easy access to him. “I feel I need to be on the floor to set the tone of what I want here,’ he says. “That tone is pleasant, helpful and always approachable. If I’m not 100 percent sure someone hasn’t gotten the attention they need, I’ll catch up with them in the parking lot to ensure they were satisfied. A week doesn’t go buy where someone doesn’t tell us that they appreciate how we’ve engaged them.”

A fun place to visit and a fun place to work paired with an extensive selection and knowledgable staff has proven to be a winning formula for Georgia Lighting as it started out. It looks to be a winning formula as the lighting retailer progresses as well. Therrien hopes to enter the Showroom of the Year Awards in 2024 in the $5 million and up category.


The Lighting Corner, Grandville, MI

“Lighting is the jewelry of the home,” says Cindy Strong, Owner of The Lighting Corner. As such, jewelry deserves to be displayed, and at this 5,000-square-foot showroom, that means moving things around frequently to showcase the newest pieces and some that may have gotten overlooked. Strong continues that updated merchandising is important for the staff, the designers and the customers who frequent the showroom often. “If it looks different, it keeps them coming back,” she says.

While the lighting in this store is the primary category, The Lighting Corner also sells furniture and decor, artwork and more, allowing for vignette merchandising and giving customers reasons to return again and again.

Marketing is somewhat organic, although this retailer, which opened in 1984 — Strong’s mother started the business in her basement —  does have a slogan and a jingle that’s known around town. “People will come in and start singing the jingle, come see the light at the lighting corner,” Strong says. The retailer has a digital screen in the store window that shares the slogan and jingle, but it’s also known around town.

Also known around town is the family- and community-oriented nature of The Lighting Corner. While Strong is now the proprietor, her parents, brother and sister-in-law and niece are some of the 40-plus employees the company has between its two locations.

The Lighting Corner also sponsors a local little league team, supports Hand to Hand Ministries, which supplied backpacks to school children and organizes a food drive every year. Community is important.

As for catering to their customers — 60 percent consumer/40 percent builder and designer — Strong encourages her staff to understand the needs of the customers walking through the door, whether that’s learning about LED or showing how the color of a lightbulb can affect paint colors. “I can present a comparison to a customer so they understand it better. We try to teach on a level where everyone can understand,” she says. “I take care of my clients in a way that I would want to be taken care of. I won’t sell someone a fixture that wouldn’t fit in their space. I want their trust.”

Strong adds, “We take a lot of pride in our showroom. It can be a lot of hard work and long days, but it’s very rewarding. I get to work with and see my family every day.”


Progressive Lighting, Atlanta, GA

Progressive Lighting is a family-owned business that began in 1965, and currently has five showrooms in Georgia. The 14th Street showroom opened in 2008 and is approximately 25,000 square feet, according to Michelle Plumley, Director of Training at Progressive, who has worked with the showroom for 30 years. “Some would call it a designer’s dream,” she says. “Its stunning high ceilings and wide open spaces make it easy to shop. They carry lighting from so many different vendors and ensure that the newest product is displayed. The staff is top notch, friendly and knowledgeable with about 90 percent being ALA Lighting Specialists.”

  Progressive’s one-man visual team always keeps the displays looking fresh, according to Plumley. The purchasing department also puts great effort into ensuring the best-looking product is displayed. Employee education is a priority as well, as Plumley has spent the last year getting 54 employees through the ALA Lighting Specialists course, and weekly Product Knowledge courses through its vendors.

“Currently all 14th Street employees (store manager and all consultants) have received the Lighting Specialist certification from the ALA,” she says.

The showroom also participates in Toys for Tots, contributes to local military families who are affected by injury and sponsors an annual fishing tournament in Plumley’s husband’s memory.

“My husband passed away seven years ago, and a small nonprofit held a fishing tournament in my husband’s memory to help me pay for a year of college for my son,” she says. “Now we’ve begun sponsoring other people in our local community affected by a disease or going through a recovery process. We will donate light fixtures all day, every day to anybody in need — but we try to keep monetary things as close to home as we possibly can.” With this level of dedication, it’s no surprise Progressive has retained generations of loyal customers that keep coming back for more.

“For 30 years, our owner Fred Lee would ask me, ‘Did you make friends today?’ He never asked if I made a sale or how our figures were looking,” she says. “That’s why we’re helping customers today whose grandparents and parents bought lights from us. It’s because those people are saying, ‘if you need a light, don’t go anywhere else.’”


Tallahassee Lighting & Decor, Tallahassee, FL

When Tallahassee Lighting’s original owner began looking for a successor, 5th grade teacher Janna Gray wouldn’t have guessed she’d soon become the store’s CEO and Co-Owner. After Gray’s father approached her about taking on the business together, Gray says there were some defining moments that lead to the final decision. “One day — hours apart from one another — two people I was talking to made a comment about children ‘being bright in our future,’” she says. Though it was a career shift she didn’t expect to make, this made Gray take pause. “I thought, ‘wait a second, this might be a sign.’ Maybe this is a segway between teaching children for the last decade and moving on to this next chapter. Timing-wise, it just worked out.” After much contemplation, Gray and her parents officially closed on the purchase in January of 2020. Since then, Gray says being CEO of Tallahassee Lighting has brought about constant change — something she loves. Each day is different, vendors are constantly innovating and there’s always something new to learn. Under Gray’s leadership, customer service also became the team’s number one priority.   

Gray recognizes that customers are crucial to the store’s success and is committed to providing the best service possible. The Experience Center allows customers to learn about “the story of light,” helping them find the perfect fit for their home. This helps them find their preference on color temperature, learning about the effects of lighting, which can turn a house into a home. “We know that customers want to see, touch and visualize a product in their home,” she says. “Our team is trained to listen to our customers describe their wants, narrow down the myriad of product choices we offer to fit their needs and budget, and imagine the change that the selected fixture will make in their homes.”

Gray’s commitment to excellence is evident in her recent remodeling of the showroom in December. She completely transformed the space, changing out displays, repainting and moving products to different locations for a complete refresh. This gave the store a jumpstart on 2023, and the feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I’ll never forget the face on one of our longstanding clients after the remodel,” she says. “She took one step in, and her jaw hit the floor! It really changed the entire vibe and feel of our store, and our clients have been so thrilled about it, which is super rewarding.”


$5 Million and Over

Best Plumbing & Lighting, Edmonton, AB, CA

Best Plumbing & Lighting is inviting even before you get into the store. Large glass windows in the 14,000-square-foot showroom feature chandeliers and signs that shine across the highway, welcoming visitors. Best Plumbing & Lighting is the largest showroom of its kind in Alberta. However, Marketing Manager Stelios Karatzas says the size isn’t a deterrent as the store features an open layout that makes it easily shoppable. 

Products are grouped into bathroom solutions, kitchen solutions, lighting solutions and a builders’ and designers’ corner to help customers discover what they’re looking for. Working displays and locally designed vignettes help customers understand how the products work as well as being able to see how they would look in the home.

If categorization wasn’t enough to enhance the customer experience in this showroom, inspirational vignettes are designed based on size and budget for any customer type, making it easy for customers to find a comfortable pricepoint to work with.

To involve the community in this retail establishment, Karatzas says, local contractors and designers are engaged to help design the vignettes and working displays. The company adds plaques throughout the showroom recognizing these partnerships, helping those local builders and designers showcase some of their capabilities.

The showroom’s community involvement also includes charity events and live art with local artists. Taking community involvement out of the showroom, Best Plumbing & Lighting allows employees to take a paid day off once a year to volunteer at a local organization of their choosing via a Giveback program.

How does Best Plumbing & Lighting get the word out about its presence in the community? Beyond its sparkling windows, Karatzas says, the company has a strong instagram presence where staff shares content and projects from contractors and designers who frequent the showroom. Best Plumbing & Lighting also holds contests and features paid content to drive in-store sales.

Karatzas says according to their customers and suppliers, the new Best Plumbing & Lighting showroom is an experience like no other. And like our other Showroom of the Year finalists, experience is what it’s all about.


Cartwright Lighting & Furniture, Calgary, AB, CA

The Cartwright Lighting & Furniture showroom delivers it all when it comes to lighting selection and customer service, says Marketing specialist Jenna Johannesen. She adds that the company has the largest selection of physical lighting fixtures on display in the 14,000-square-foot Alberta showroom, which opened in 2000.

The company motto is “Cartwright Lighting & Furniture is a high-quality service company dedicated to exceptional customer service,” with a philosophy that service is the most important thing the retailer can offer
its customers.

Beyond its expansive selection, Cartwright features dedicated “living spaces” in the showroom to create an atmosphere where lighting and home furnishings can be displayed together to allow customers to visualize how something might look in their own spaces. The company has been in business for almost 50 years and has a deep passion for the lighting industry.

With that deep passion comes the knowledge that lighting is not like other home furnishings categories and a significant amount of training is required for both associates in the organization and customers.

“We understand that we must be able to serve our clients in a variety of ways,” Johannesen says. “Every single employee in the store starts their training by working on the sales floor. This way they understand the client experience.” With a mix of designers, lighting specialists and electricians, Cartwright’s staff is set up to be able to answer any customer questions, whether referring to scale, color or even installation.

The client mix at Cartwright is diverse, she continues, made up of retail customers, designers, builders, architects and multi-family projects. In recent years, the multi-family division has expanded and has provided a strong trade following for the retailer.

As an established showroom in the community as well, Cartwright believes in service to its community. Each year, the company donates a full day’s sales to local charitable organizations four times a year with the hope of helping those less fortunate. The company also arranges for 10 staff members a month to volunteer at a local soup kitchen so they understand the needs in the community. “Service to the community has always been about just that, service ot our community. No matter what resources you have at your disposal, there is always something special that happens when you live generously,” Johannesen says. “Our intention is to continue to support the community that supports us.”

While customer service and service to the community are benchmarks of Cartwright’s success, another strength is the company’s ability to source products that might not be available from competitors. “With the infrastructure developed through many years in business, our supply chain management, delivery execution and follow-up service have allowed us to be leaders in our field,” Johannesen notes.


Inline Lighting, Montgomery, AL

At Inline Lighting, they sell “knowledge,” says Lauren Collins, Marketing Director of the Inline Lighting Group (there are 21 stores in total for the organization). Inline sells lighting and other home furnishings, too, of course, but when it comes to servicing their customers in the best way possible, the staff at the Montgomery location is all about ensuring the people that walk through their doors walk out satisfied and understanding the purchases they made and why. “We don’t want them to walk away with a light fixture. We want them to walk away understanding and having more confidence in what they chose,” Collins notes.

It makes sense that all employees at this Inline location are heavily invested in their client’s happiness. It’s also an investment in themselves. An ESOP, the store is employee-owned and the sales staff is a tight-knit group of women. To ensure customers know they will be well taken care of, the staff at Inline’s largest location have created a community atmosphere. They work well together and stay visible to customers coming in the store by stationing themselves up front, Collins notes.

“They work hard at making Montgomery a destination,” she says. To create that destination, Inline employees are well-versed in the technology and impact of lighting on a space, taking courses through ALA, CEUs, and lunch-and-learns with vendors. There are areas in the store that make it easy to explain how different levels of light might impact color in a room and more.

Beyond the technical, Inline’s Montgomery location is beautifully designed and changing all the time, with inspired vignettes to help customers visualize how a fixture will look in a space. Products are continuously moved around to give them fresh life. The general manager at this Inline location is a trained interior designer, which makes the merchandising part enjoyable.

The showroom caters to a mix of customers — consumer, builder and designer — that need varying levels of attention, and they can be guaranteed to get the support they need when they come to Inline Lighting. To widen this scope, the website is being updated to include a blog where customers can find tips and information online to better inform their purchasing decisions.

The Montgomery location is also invested in its community, holding events and being involved in charitable endeavors that further connect them to their community.

“We do fun, creative things,” Collins continues. There are candle-making and charcuterie board-making classes, for example. They host the home builders women’s group when they need somewhere to gather. “It’s important to create that network. We are invested int hte things our customers are invested in.”

Through their relationship with the Greater Montgomery Home Builders Association, Inline participates in and sponsors community programs such as the Educational Trust Fund and Professional Women in Building Group. They are also involved in the Alabama chapter of the IIDA and ASID.

Many team members are also involved in charitable organizations such as Meals on Wheels, local homeless shelters and organizations that mentor young adults and local youth. “They never say no to a silent auction request, and have donated fixtures to numerous Habitat for Humanity projects and other local ministries,” Collins says.

A busy team of four, they like to call themselves “Designing Women,” she adds. They consider their relationships with each other important to the success of the showroom. Even more so, cultivating relationships with their customers and community drive the business’s growth. “Relationships are everything in our industry and our number one focus is our relationships with our customers,” Collins says.


Lee Lighting, Pineville, NC

Coming in at just under 20,000 square feet, customers entering the vast Lee Lighting showroom can feel confident that an associate can easily find what they are looking for. With more than 60 lighting brands on display, there’s something for everyone, and the staff creates a “warm and effusive spirit” in the store, says Regional Marketing and Merchandising Manager Justine Vasco.

Lee Lighting, part of a 10-store group, has the advantage of being able to get stock to customers more quickly as they can pull from their own inventory across the company.

 “We stock in a warehouse in Charlotte, so we can get product more quickly than other retailers,” Vasco notes.

 Lee Lighting also sells some furniture, accent pieces, lamps and mirrors as well, to give customers additional choices and to help when merchandising the showroom. They do a complete overhaul of the showroom’s merchandising every three months, with smaller merchandising changes on an even more regular basis.

The showroom also houses a light lab to make it easier for the ALA-certified staff to educate the customer base, which is comprised of  consumers, builders and designers. “We want to educate our customers so they feel comfortable and can talk about their lighting needs,” Vasco notes. “It’s very important for us to take the time to do that.”

For their building and design clients, they’ll also send assigned staff to the field to review a layout and assess electrical needs. These visits can take a few hours, and sometimes require a few visits.

For the retail customers buying a new home, they’ll get a discount and also a warranty on the lighting in their homes, building confidence and trust for that customer and ensuring they’ll be back when they need additional home furnishings or lighting products.

The massive showroom also has a unique feature other showrooms might not have — varied ceiling heights. Areas of the store feature eight-, nine-, 12- and 22-foot ceilings, so people can assess how fixtures might look in their homes. Staff at Lee Lighting encourage customers to come in with images of rooms or exteriors where lighting is being installed so they can better understand the dimensions and needs of the homeowner as well.

To keep employees engaged and happy in their roles — an important consideration when keeping customers happy — the company supports staff with appreciation dinners, awards and birthday celebrations, for example. “They want to show their appreciation for the employees,” Vasco says.

The efforts show, she continues. Lee Lighting was voted best lighting store by the BOB Awards of the Charlotte Observer. That makes sense as the focus at Lee Lighting is about harmony and partnership. “We have a desire to exceed customer expectations,” says Vasco.


Park Lighting & Furniture, Edmonton, AB, CA

Much like its sister store — Cartwright Lighting & Furniture, in Calgary — Park Lighting & Furniture, delivers on the tenets of product choice, inventory, knowledge and service. This 16,000-square-foot lighting showroom, which opened in 2004, has operated on the policy of delighting its varied base of customers over and over. Dedicated vignettes offer an opportunity for customers to see lighting — and furniture and home decor — in settings that set an atmosphere and allow customers to visualize fixtures and furnishings in their own spaces.

These are continually being rearranged as well, to ensure the most on-trend and exciting pieces are displayed.

The company has been family-owned and -operated for almost 50 years, as the second generation of ownership has begun transitioning in the last five years, continuing to grow the company and this showroom.

With a customer-service first approach to building customer relationships, Park Lighting & Furniture has highly trained lighting specialists on staff, many with ALA certification.

“We love to see people experience what our showrooms have to offer in person, including those personal connections with the team,” says Marketing Specialist Jenna Johannesen. “We also understand that we must be available to our clients in a variety of different ways.”

This retailer, like its sister store — Cartwright Lighting & Furniture — services retail customers as well as trade, such as designers, builders and architects. There are more than 120 staff members between the two stores.

 “Our team certainly consists of a wide variety of backgrounds and skill sets and what we have really focused on in recent years is building a team that aligns with our values as a company,” she continues. “We believe that as a group, when we all understand the why and where we are going, developing new and more efficient processes to serve our customers better tends to happen organically.”

Park Lighting & Furniture has hundreds of years of lighting experience on its collective team, which has filtered into all departments and is a bonus for the lighting retailer’s customers.

Like it’s sister showroom in Calgary, Park Lighting & Furniture also has a close connection with its community, donating thousands of dollars to chosen causes, such as the Firefighter’s Burn Victim Society and Rehobth, which helps to fund homes and services for mentally and physically challenged.

While the goal is to get customers into the expansive showroom, Park Lighting & Furniture is also dedicating staff and time to its digital presence. Social media and more get the retailer in front of its customers where they are, and the company is working on an updated website. “We believe being part of the digital community is an integral part of our business strategy,” Johannesen says.

Park Lighting & Furniture puts its primary focus on the customer experience, whether in the store or online. An extensive, varied inventory, hard-to-find resources and a dedicated and knowledgable staff go a long way to making Park Lighting & Furniture customers feel at home however they connect to this retail establishment. •

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