Elements Lighting and Home, an 18,000-square-foot showroom on Long Island in New York, is filled with pretty things — lighting from all the top brands, furniture and accessories too. Retail customers and designers come in every day of the week to look, shop and collaborate. Business is bustling if not booming, but for the folks at Elements, it’s still not enough.
“I don’t have to tell you there is competition from the Internet,” said Patrice Auerbach, Vice President, Marketing and Visual Design. “It’s constant and relentless, so to ensure our survival as a brick-and-mortar showroom, we’re always looking for ways to bring customers in.”
Last spring, Elements took its quest for something new into uncharted territory. The lighting showroom published the first edition of LightStyle by Elements, a glossy shelter magazine showcasing the latest lighting and home furnishings trends and products that folks can see and feel at Elements. By the showroom’s measures, the inaugural book was a hit, and a second edition — Winter 2017/2018 — launched in November.
Lighting & Decor recently sat down with Auerbach to get the inside scoop on what it takes to put the magazine together and how (and why) other lighting showrooms could follow suit.
Lighting & Decor: Elements is in the business of selling lights. Where did the idea to publish a shelter magazine come from?
Patrice Auerbach: A gentleman came into the showroom. He was like a lot of others who come in trying to sell us advertising in one of the many interior design style magazines we have out here. I knew we weren't going to spend our money there, but my ears perked up when he mentioned they also do private label magazines.
When he pulled out a gorgeous shelter magazine published by a local plumbing supplies wholesaler, I was hooked. Instead of advertising Elements in somebody else's publication, why couldn't we create a magazine of our own?
L&D: So you have what you hope is a good idea. What goes into making it a reality?
Auerbach: First, you have to know your demographic, and we already had a lot of that information. We know who buys at Elements. We know where they live, how old they are and their household income. That’s number one.
Next, you have to know who your competition is in all related areas. In other words, we’re a lighting store, but we have home furnishings too. So who else does that? We have to know the handful of home furnishings stores in the gigantic shopping mall right down the road. We have to know who the other lighting stores are in our area.
Then, you come up with subjects to cover in the magazine that would be of interest to your demographic and begin developing content. For example, I’ll do a piece on trends, or we’ll feature a Q&A with a prominent designer. The idea is to always, then, pull it back to lighting. You want to integrate it almost surreptitiously, quietly weaving it in and out but always bringing the customer back to why they want to come into Elements.
Finally, personalizing the publication with a letter from the company president and mentions of local charities and special events helps make people feel like, “Yes this is a local business. I'm going to support it.”
L&D: So far this sounds an inside job. Who are the other players?
Auerbach: Well, there are the advertisers: our top vendors like Arteriors, Visual Comfort, Kichler and Murray Feiss. We also approach local businesses like restaurants, real estate companies, car dealerships, jewelers and whoever else might be in our local area and target the same demographic. You want the person who picks up the magazine to see the restaurant they like and the tile store they think is beautiful. Advertisers help tie it all together and give readers the desire to come into the showroom or to go to our website.
Of course, more important than anything else, is hiring a publisher with a great team. It’s helpful to find someone who does or has done magazines for businesses similar to yours, so they know how to bring in the right the content. Here at Elements, my team and I write a lot of the content, but we rely on the publisher for that, too.
L&D: How do you get the magazine and its content into customers’ (and would-be customers’) hands?
Auerbach: We produce about 12,000 copies of the magazine. Some of those go out to local residents via direct mail. We selected 13 zip codes that are close to our showroom and have the highest density of people that matches our target demographic. We also we have lots and lots of copies on hand in the showroom. They’re in the vestibule, where customers can see them when they walk in. They’re up by the front counter where they check out. Sometimes our sales rep hands out a copy to a customer. We also promote the magazine content on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
L&D: This is such a cool idea, but it sounds like a lot of work. It also sounds expensive. What gives?
Auerbach: It's an investment in time and money, but it's a worthwhile investment and we're very proud of what we’re doing here. If we as retailers don’t continue to look outside of the box for things that will keep us relevant, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that we can't compete with the Internet. We have to separate ourselves all the time and make what we do special. This is what we’re doing, and so far it seems we’re beyond pleased with the results.
Thinking about producing your own shelter magazine? Share your thoughts in the comments!