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Amini’s Galleria, Wildwood, MO
Amini’s Galleria is not your typical lighting showroom. With a footprint of 45,000 square feet, Amini’s goal is to pretty much be everything to everyone where home furnishings are concerned. Downstairs, the retailer focuses on the game room and outdoor. Upstairs, it’s all about home furnishings, with a full selection of furniture, accessories, and yes, lighting. The retail giant focuses on the better and best end of the spectrum to deliver an exceptional customer experience, says Shelia Hendrickson, Furniture Buyer and Merchandiser. Her lighting counterpart, Bill Hughes, the Lighting Manager and Merchandiser, adds, “We try to make everything five star.”
While lighting wasn’t part of the original concept for Amini’s Galleria, when the company decided to add the category more than a decade ago, it became a focal point. Hughes joined Amini’s when the family-owned Midwest retailer acquired Jaffe Lighting, where he originally worked.
With so much space, Hughes notes, there is ample opportunity for customers to see the breadth of product. “The lighting isn’t all crammed together,” he says. “So many things have their own spot so you can appreciate them.” Lighting is also displayed within room settings and decor. “We’ll center a chandelier over a table, for example. Everything gets to be shown to its full advantage. Customers come in and stay because of the way we merchandise.”
Beyond merchandising, the lighting staff at Amini’s is well-versed in the latest innovations. Our lighting crew has more than 100 years of combined experience. We’ve all been doing it for 30-plus years,” Hughes adds, noting that they are continually learning as lighting technology changes. “And the people here who sell lighting don’t sell anything else,” he adds, integral to the success of the department.
While technology and education are important, Hughes adds, at the end of the day, lighting purchases are also about style. “Truthfully, style is still style. We start there and then we discuss the light source,” he adds.
Of utmost importance to the success of this family-owned retail group (since 1975) is its customer service. “We know the Amini’s family name is associated with every product we sell, and that means something to us,” the company says. “We shop the world for the best selection and it is our promise to provide five-star experiences in every respect. The best prices, quality, and service for every customer, every time.”
Dominion Lighting, Arlington, VA
Dominion Lighting was honored with two Showroom of the Year Awards in 2021 — $2-$5M and Merchandising — after VP, Residential Lighting Matthew Rowan revamped the once-dreary showroom. This year, those changes have paid off. The Arlington showroom (Dominion has four) saw a revenue increase of 42 percent in 2021. “It’s interesting to see how everything evolved,” Rowan says. “As a designer, it’s been a payoff to watch things change for the better.”
How has this lighting retailer topped its success from last year to make the customer experience even better? As the world has re-opened, Dominion has been able to use some of the spaces it incorporated that weren’t available during the pandemic, such as its event space. “Community outreach and engagement was a core part of the showroom design,” Rowan says. “The event space functions for gathering after-hours, and we also host rotating art exhibits to provide a platform for local artists. Thus far, we have hosted seven art shows representing 25 artists. As part of those shows, more than a dozen pieces of art have been sold to collectors who might otherwise have never seen or been aware of these works.” He adds that Dominion has become something of a local hub for the art and design community. “We have legitimate artwork in this space. It makes everything else sing,” Rowan says of how this endeavor elevates Dominion further. The event space connects the community beyond art shows and designer events, however. Recently a customer coming in for lighting for her home was so enthralled with the space, she asked to have her wedding “first look” photos taken there. “We’re making these happy moments for people,” says Rowan. “It makes it seem all the more meaningful.”
Back to being a design hub, Dominion Lighting has created a showroom designed to educate and support its customers as well as inspire them. The gallery area was designed to allow clients to get far closer to fixtures than in regular stores where lighting is hung above, for example. “We hang in three and four layers to allow folks to really touch, feel and inspect everything so that they feel comfortable with their decisions,” Rowan says. “We also provide plenty of open space around our fixture groupings to avoid clutter and a sense of being overwhelmed. Our clients come to us to be their guide throughout thousands of options, so we want to maintain focus and clarity to put them at ease.”
Dominion has also incorporated a rotating seasonal display area, where the focus shifts each season. For summer, for example, Dominion will showcase natural materials such as grapevine and wicker. This year’s spring focus is on sculptural forms and natural finishes.
More than merchandising, Dominion is a lighting showroom where its customers can come to learn and work. Fully equipped with a lighting lab and a studio area where designers can meet clients and store their work, Dominion has given thoughtful attention to the needs of its clientele. In 2020, as the pandemic took hold, the retailer moved to an appointment-only format to ensure customers had dedicated attention. That has stayed, as it has proven a more effective way to do business. That 42 percent increase in revenue attests to that. “We’re connecting, we’re inspiring and connection does have a payoff,” says Rowan.
Galleria Lighting, Greenwood Village, CO
Just a bit over two years old — who opens a lighting retail showroom during a pandemic? — Galleria Lighting is filling a void east of Denver, as the community needed such a showroom. The 10,000-square-foot showroom got off to a rocky start, opening and closing right back up because of Covid, according to Showroom Manager Jennifer Dallman. But that didn’t stop them. Last year they started it all back up, and Galleria has seen its customer base expanding ever since. “We’re getting busier and busier,” Dallman continues. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Traditional in style, Galleria’s showroom is merchandised by companies, with walls for such brands as Minka Lavery, Kichler, Kalco, Allegri and more. Not only does the retailer work with vendors on visual display, but they also come in to educate the sales staff on their products. Understanding the importance of education, Galleria works with ASID to deliver accredited classes for its design community.
In addition to lighting resources, the showroom features artwork and mirrors, as well as creating vignettes for visualization purposes. Informed sales staff are always on hand as well to ensure customer satisfaction with their choices and explain the nuances of technology, spacing and design.
As business grows, Galleria is creating a mix of retail and professional customers. “Our retail customer helps us understand what’s needed in this showroom and the changes we need to make, Dallman says.”
Galleria advertises its location in a number of ways — television, email, radio and through its transactional website. They also pay close attention to what’s happening in the community. For example, a new retirement community is being built nearby. That will require a different level of lighting than other commercial or traditional residential spaces.
A new business takes time, Dallman continues, but being the only lighting resource on this side of Denver has helped it grow quickly. “Every day is an adventure,” she notes. “I’ve been in this business for 17 years and this has been my favorite showroom.”
Magnolia Lighting, Hernando, MS
With a focus on the new home construction business, Magnolia Lighting, in Hernando, MS, has had its best two years ever. However, after realizing that this part of the business can be volatile, Owners Paul and Pam Whitfield have created an environment designed for the retail customer as well. In addition to lighting, the showroom is merchandised with accent furnishings, art and lamps designed to draw that retail clientele. “Retail sales have been a buffer when home construction has fluctuated,” Pam Whitfield says, adding that she doesn’t anticipate the home building market to slow down right now though.
At 8,000 square feet, the Hernando location — one of four retail destinations — is designed in vignettes that help customers realize how lighting and other products work in their spaces. And while Hernando is a smaller town, the retailer services the greater Memphis metro marketplace.
One of the strategies Magnolia has employed to ensure in-stock product at a time when supply chain has become so volatile is to invest in inventory. Along with this showroom, the company has a 40,000-square-foot warehouse. “Our money is better invested in the customer than in the bank,” Whitfield says. “Our investment in inventory and warehouse space has allowed us to make big purchases as we’ve needed product.”
With that commitment to the customer in mind, Magnolia sales staff also commit to the sale. “When the customer makes a selection, we order and pull that product off our shelves whether it’s needed in two week or six months, and we communicate along the way,” she adds. “It’s just what we’ve decided is necessary to provide the level of service we feel our customers deserve.”
As with its commitment to its customers, Magnolia Lighting also invests in its community. “Magnolia Lighting supports local and global efforts,” adds Annie Krum, Sales/Marketing for Magnolia and the Whitfields’ daughter. “We give to local organizations such as the local animal shelter, a backpack ministry that provides food for children over the weekends and the local sport complex.” The company also donates to ministry efforts in Zambia, Africa, that provide clean water and education to orphans. Most recently, the retailer is participating in a new effort to build beds for families in need through a local church.
While the lighting showroom does have a transactional website and online presence, Whitfield says, it prefers to draw customers into the showroom to ensure they get the best information and experience along with their lighting purchases. “I really want them to let my people help them, so they are getting exactly what they want,” she says. “Our primary goal is to bring people into the stores.”
Customer satisfaction is key to this family-run business’s success, which incorporates three generations with both Whitfield’s mother and daughter working for the company. As that family attitude extends to its customers, it’s no wonder this Mississippi retailer has seen the success it has.
Ultra Design Center, Denver, CO
Enter the International Design Center in Denver, CO, and head up to the third floor and you’ll find Ultra Design Center, a mix of lighting, plumbing, hardware and inspiration for creating an upscale atmosphere in the home. Ultra Design Center opened its lighting division in 2019 with a 13,000-square-foot footprint within the 93,000-square-foot IDC, built to house showrooms catering to the building industry and home design.
When Ultra opened its doors, it was plumbing only, says Showroom Manager Amber Nelson. Once the retailer began opening accounts and recognized the builder community’s need for a one-stop shop, they carefully curated lighting resources to provide a more well-rounded experience. “Lighting complements the plumbing,” Nelson says.
With more than 70 lighting vendors, “Our merchandising strategy included the customer’s vision and perspective by creating the full experience from making a decision to pairing certain products to completing their final purchase,” she says. “It is vital to us that we make efficient use of our customers’ time when they are designing and shopping.”
She adds that the company is not just about lights. Without walls, the retailer relies on a custom kitchen area and multiple large islands — 20 feet — to show scale. “It’s hard in a typical lighting showroom to see a product of different sizes or to see three larger-scale pendants over a 16-foot long island,” Nelson says. “We also envision the newer trends and newer ways to showcase lighting in a home.”
The lighting inspiration doesn’t stop at the edge of Ultra Design Center’s space, however. Its lighting products are on every floor and getting lots of buzz, as the retailer has installed lighting throughout the IDC, including in the large windows. “The light fixtures that are placed throughout the building in our floor-to-ceiling windows twinkle beautifully at night and certainly capture the attention of thousands of people commuting the two main highways leading to and from Denver,” Nelson shares. “All of the businesses in the building cooperate with one another.”
Project Manager Lesa Martin adds that there isn’t any competition in the building as each showroom has its own identity. No one else can sell lighting, plumbing and hardware, and Ultra Design Center can’t branch out into other categories that are already being sold through other tenants. This business model ensures customers benefit from all of the resources, and the businesses benefit from all of the customers.
“There is no one in Denver with a setup like ours,” Martin continues. “We have come out of the gate strong and business has been good. We’re excited to bring customers [both trade and retail] in and show them our space and what we can offer.” It’s a collaborative effort where everyone wins, especially the customer.