We announced the 11th Annual Showroom of the Year Winners on Facebook Live with Dallas Market Center and Lightovation. Now read the stories that led them to the “virtual” stage.
Under $2 Million
Village Home Stores - Geneseo, IL
Located in a small town near the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois, Village Home Stores draws customers from a wide radius who are willing to make the trek for its services. This makes accolades all the more important, since potential customers usually do a bit of online research before deciding to head to the showroom.
“Winning a title like ‘Showroom of the Year’ helps us gain credibility for those customers considering a drive to visit our small business,” says Marketing Manager Elizabeth Round.
Round says she’s grateful to be located in a town with such a strong focus on community, which staff regularly gives back to through donations, fundraisers and volunteer time. The one-stop-shop for lighting, appliances, kitchen and bath and flooring also opens up its 10,200+ square-foot showroom for open house and nights out-style events in the historic downtown area of Geneseo, IL.
“Maybe it’s that small town mentality, but we are kind of proud of our thriving community. With our showroom located just a short drive from larger surrounding cities, we often are able to help encourage our customers to make more out of their trip to see us by shopping, dining, visiting a local brewery, or even our city parks and walking trails,” Round says.
A focus on its digital presence has helped Village Home Stores garner a steady stream of loyal customers over the years. In addition to producing a TV show that airs each Sunday on the local ABC channel, the business also runs digital ads and shares social media posts ranging from a magazine-worthy shot from a recent project to a staff member showing how he can balance a 4-inch long pendant extension rod on his chin.
In response to COVID-19, Round says the Village Home Stores team has done its best to adapt and be digitally available to its customers and builder clients.
“We anticipate being available for ‘virtual’ meetings and consults will be something that will stick long-term,” Round says. “We are so thankful that our customers visiting us in the showroom have been respectful and have worn masks as we work together in-store. A habit that all consumers seemed to have fast-tracked being comfortable with is chatting with us online and using our website’s login and wishlist feature. We have had our webchat and customer login system in place for awhile, but the past few months it has been buzzing with activity.”
NorthWest Lighting & Accents - Mount Prospect, IL
This year marked the 11th year of the Showroom of the Year Awards, and for the last 11 years, NorthWest Lighting and Accents has been a finalist. They’ve won the the Exceptional Community Involvement Award and the Outstanding Merchandising Display award twice, but this year the 66,000-square-foot Mount Prospect, IL, showroom took home the top honor in their revenue category.
“When I finally heard our name called as Showroom of the Year Winner, I felt elated, excited and ecstatic,” says Amanda Wolfe, Residential Lighting Division Manager for NorthWest Lighting and Accents. “I would have loved to have celebrated this win with the entire industry that night amongst our peers, vendor partners, and reps at Dallas Lightovation, but there was a silver lining. Since we were trapped in Chicago due to the COVID concerns, we were able to share this win in real time with our entire staff and honestly, that was a pretty cool thing!”
She credits the win to the efforts of the showroom staff and design team who work tirelessly to create an innovative
and exciting brick and mortar experience for customers.
“We know that in order for brick and mortar to stay relevant, we need to keep changing, growing, and refreshing,” Wolfe says. “We want every customer who walks through our doors to be surprised at how much we have to offer every time they come back.”
When coronavirus hit, the NorthWest Lighting team leaned into their digital presence — including their social media accounts and newly rebuilt website — to stay connected with customers. This digital connection will continue long after the pandemic is over, Wolfe says.
“Today’s market demand requires sensory stimulation at all hours of the day and night,” she says. “As a small business, this is only possible to do if we incorporate social media more aggressively into our marketing approach. Building a stronger foundation for our clients to easily shop/browse with us, view relevant new tips and trends, and the ability to ask us troubleshooting questions will help keep our brand and name in front of them, regardless of what COVID has in store for us.”
$5 Million and Over
Dulles Electric Supply - Sterling, VA
Dulles Electric Supply, the $5M and over winner of this year’s Showroom of the Year Awards, didn’t rise to the top by chance. The largest lighting retail showroom in Sterling, VA, at 13,000 square feet, the company has paid close attention to the economic environment that drives its business. Dulles has been thoughtful in the lighting supply partners it chooses, and the layout of the showroom makes it easy for customers — both professional (contract and designers) and consumer — to navigate and find the resources they are looking for. In addition, the “Electric Supply” part of the company’s moniker adds to the services and technological capabilities the staff brings to the success equation. In addition to the ALA-certified lighting specialist Dulles employs, the company ensures its employees stay on top of this ever-changing industry via such programs as the Lighting One Cooperative, for example.
Dulles Electric Supply has held steady during the coronavirus pandemic, having had the forethought to beef up its e-commerce presence as well as protocols designed to keep its customers safe. “I think the shift to e-commerce versus brick and mortar has been accelerated by this pandemic,” says Stephen Miller, Residential Lighting Manager. “With our website, we’ve given them the option to shop online with free shipping over $50 and free two-day delivery to compete with Amazon. We are also flexible with our return policy. They can shop online and pick up at the store. We’ll bring it out to their car.” Giving its customers so many options has helped them to continue to shop safely. Miller adds that Dulles Electric had partnered with marketing firm Madwire to enhance its website, social media presence, online reputation and multi-channel digital advertising, a move that has become critical during this pandemic.
Zoom has also helped Dulles to stay in front of its suppliers and customers. “We have lots of Zoom meetings with our reps and sales managers,” he says. “Those types of meetings will become more common now that everyone can use the technology.” Dulles also does live Zoom consultations with customers who need to assess a lighting fixture’s fit in their homes.
As for winning the 2020 Showroom of the Year Award, which is not the retailer’s first, Miller says Dulles is honored by the award. “After winning this award, it has opened up a lot more opportunities for us,” Miller says.
Staying ahead of the curve for Dulles Electric Supply has been achieved through technology, good partnerships and well-trained and customer-centric staff. They’ll weather this challenge, and the plan is to come out the other side with even more diverse tools and skills for selling lighting.
Idlewood Electric - Highland Park, IL
“In today’s climate, it’s more meaningful than ever to receive this award,” says Barbara Lansing, CEO, Idlewood Electric. “It’s so important to reach out in your community and be supportive. No matter how challenging your situation, someone has it worse.”
With that focus, it’s no surprise that Idlewood Electric has taken home the Community Involvement Showroom of the Year Award two years in a row. As an established member of its community for three generations (more than 60 years), Idlewood knows a thing or two about giving back and creating connections within their community.
“We always try to think about what’s in it for others,” Lansing continues, especially in light of current circumstances. While the electrical supply side of the business has been an essential service, the showroom was closed until recently. Idlewood maintained its employee base, however, and managed sales through the website with local deliveries and curbside pickup. Rachel Lansing Sotoloff, Marketing Director for Idlewood, also credits its suppliers with innovative dropshipping programs that helped keep business humming for consumers who didn’t want to venture out. They are hopeful these will continue.
The most important message Lansing wants her community to hear right now is “Shop local.” “The small businesses in our community are suffering,” she says. The retailer provides beverages to workers and customers, buying from the local small supermarket. “We are so supportive of each other. We encourage each other to shop local too.”
Communication has been key to Idlewood’s continued success during these challenging times. Being out in front is critical. Idlewood has stayed in touch with those it services via phone, Zoom, email and more. “Our message is we’re here for you,” says Lansing. “The customer service that you’ve come to expect is still here.”
Social Media Star
Progressive Lighting - Duluth, GA
When Emma Harger-Young, Social Media Director for Progressive Lighting - Sugarloaf, watched the livestreamed Showroom of the Year Awards ceremony and learned that her showroom won the Social Media Star award, she says she screamed so loudly, she scared her cat.
“It is truly very exciting to see your hard work rewarded and recognized on a national level,” she says.
The family-owned and -operated business has been serving the Duluth area for 54 years. With more than 50,000 square feet of showroom space and ALA-certified staff, the store is a staple in the community. The showroom is merchandised in vignettes, helping customers to visualize the lighting in their homes. This is reflected in Harger-Young’s social media strategy as well. She says lifestyle photography works well on social media to help potential customers better relate to what they’re seeing.
“In the lighting industry, it’s all about using great photos of the fixtures because we are often showcasing our products to people who might not routinely think about the way lighting looks or know the decor styles they like,” she says. “Lifestyle photos are especially ideal because they tell a story and allow people to imagine themselves in that space.”
Although this is Progressive Lighting’s second Social Media Star win, it’s its first during a global pandemic, when communication via digital platforms is more important than ever.
“In the first few days after the COVID-19 outbreak began, we developed a quick-delivery program that can get select fixtures to your door in 24 hours if you live in the metro area,” Harger-Young says. “It’s called Speed of Light and one very important part of letting people know about it was to get the word out on our social media platforms, making people aware of this convenient way to improve their homes and support a local, family-owned business without leaving their homes. While it is certainly hard
to know what the future holds, the fact that we created a response to the requirements of the current situation shows that we can handle what comes our way.”
Outstanding Merchandising Display
Lightform Lighting - Scottsdale, AZ
In business for more than 20 years, Lightform Lighting took things to the next level when it moved into its new showroom in 2017. For years, Founder and Owner Chad Rothe had his eyes on the building nestled in the design district of downtown Scottsdale. When space became available, he jumped at the opportunity.
Designing and building the space from scratch with his wife, an architect, allowed them to create an architecturally interesting showroom that stands out for its distinctly European aesthetic. It’s not uncommon for jaws to drop as clients take in the clean, modern design.
“The comment that we get is, ‘this shouldn’t be in Phoenix. I feel like I’m in Milan or New York,’” Rothe says.
The methodically designed showroom features custom hand-built displays and a clean, monochromatic palette throughout that lets the lighting pop. The 2,500 square-foot showroom also gives fixtures room to breathe, Rothe says.
For Rothe, winning the SOTY award for Outstanding Merchandising Display reinforces all the hard work that went into creating the new showroom. “I’m incredibly proud of my team and myself,” he says. “It’s an honor. We took it from concept to completion, and it’s our baby.”
The showroom features a range of strategically placed lighting products from pendants to track lighting. Interior and exterior wall sconces are displayed independently, and chandeliers are mixed in throughout. Rothe says the kitchen area tends to be more neutral with whites and clear and acrylic, compared to another section on the ceiling that showcases brushed brass, gold and softer tones. The front window is reserved for eye-grabbing fixtures.
As for the way he approaches merchandising, Rothe says it really just comes down to an attention to design and detail.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason; it’s a keen eye for aesthetics and spatial parameters,” he says.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Rothe says he’s reminded of how much he appreciates every employee and each client that comes in. While Lightform Lighting was able to stay open as an essential business this spring, they’ll shift to by-appointment only operations moving forward. Post-COVID-19, one of Rothe’s objectives is to connect and give back to the community. For now, he’s grateful for continued business. “We’re still busy,” he says. “We’re just very grateful.”