Lighting with Lisa: The Lighting Podcast

Showroom Strategizing & Updates

October 10, 2023 Lisa Bartlett Season 2 Episode 2
Lighting with Lisa: The Lighting Podcast
Showroom Strategizing & Updates
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Do you struggle with navigating Saturday staffing and hours for your lighting showroom? Dive into the evolution of my own lighting showroom and our journey with Saturday hours. We'll also delve into the challenges and rewards that come with managing a showroom in the residential lighting & fan industry. From the strategic decisions that led to my merchandising changes to the ever-evolving landscape of staff engagement, there is always something new to learn.

Are you aware of the numerous networking platforms available for those in the lighting industry? I'll introduce you to invaluable resources like the Fixture Finder group, the Residential Lighting Industry Job Board, and even our LWL Lighting Showrooms group, all on Facebook. These platforms offer a wealth of knowledge and connections to enhance your growth in the industry. Here are the links, please join us!

Fixture Finder
Lighting Jobs
LWL - Lighting Showrooms

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome fellow lighting nerds and friends to Lighting with Lisa at the podcast. Here we are again, episode two. I'm so excited y'all. I have been just really being re-energized by conversations and getting the podcast back going. So I'm happy to be here, happy you're here. Thank you for listening. I am happy to report that there are a few sponsors lined up for upcoming episodes, so that's exciting. That means the podcast can continue for as long as we're able to keep that going. So if you know of somebody that you'd love to hear featured on this podcast, there'll be one sponsor and episode so that we can share whatever they have going on with the lighting industry. Again, you won't find a more targeted audience than the one we have here with the Lighting with Lisa podcast. So if you want to reach lighting industry professionals, this is the place to do it. Reach out to me via any of the social media or email Lisa at lightingwithlisacom and we'll go from there. But I'm super excited about some of the upcoming sponsors and, yeah, stay tuned. So there's more and more to come with the podcast. I also wanted to plug at the top of the podcast the several Facebook groups that exist, not all lighting with Lisa branded, but just groups for the residential lighting industry that I want to make sure you're aware of, if you're just not already. The most valuable for many of us, I would say, is the fixture finder group. If you're not a part of that and you're in the industry, well you need to join it. Just search lighting fixture help. It's a group, it's a private group on Facebook and all we do there is post pictures of things we can't identify or things we're looking for a different version of or discontinued items that somebody might have in stock or a display or something. It is super, super useful. We started this group as a part of the lighting show association and the board of the LSA decided to kind of keep it going and I'm going to stay on as the administrator so that we can keep this going. We don't do any advertising there. I kind of it's just not what the space is for. But if you're not a part of that group, highly recommend there's also a residential lighting industry job board, so that one is also a private Facebook group and just search for lighting jobs. So if you have a position, just post it out there and it's all. Listings are going to like go through my approval before they get posted, just to make sure there isn't somebody doing something kind of sketch. But you can post open positions and then ask applicants to contact you directly. Again, we're just with the lighting, with Lisa community. I have my consumer facing content. So if you follow that Instagram account, that's part of what this is, and then part of it is to also create a space for the lighting industry for day to day engagement in any way or shape. That makes sense for our industry. And so hiring and finding great lighting industry professional professionals is always a topic that comes up. It came up Somebody emailed me just this week about how I hire. Where can I find good lighting industry talent? So I really recommend that you hop on over to this job board or have a key member of staff get in the job board so that you can post out direct to lighting industry professionals. Maybe the person seeing the listing isn't looking for the position, but they might know of somebody who would be interested. So please post them out there. And again, it's just that you post the listing, no comment. You know like nothing needs to be public other than we have this job contact me at, and then people can reach out to you directly from there, so it can still be pretty, whatever. Anonymous isn't the right word, but private. And then, of course, the last Facebook group to join, if you're not already a member, is the one in support of this podcast and where I'm going to really be getting a lot of the content that's going to feed into these podcasts. So if you want an early scoop on that or you want to propose a topic and get other people's feedback, that's the LWL lighting showrooms groups. So just search for lighting showrooms on Facebook. Again, another private group. It is for all members of the industry, so it's not showroom exclusive. It is for manufacturers, manufacturers, agents, whatever. If you're in the lighting industry residential lighting and fan industry you're welcome to join the group. So I just always recommend people be mindful of that. But it is a very positive, encouraging space for looking for solutions, not just complaining. But it is the group that exists to be like in cooperation with this podcast. Because, quite honestly, while I have lots of ideas and lots of opinions about lots of things, I don't have all of them by any stretch, and it's really, really helpful to engage with y'all in this community and it helps inform, like upcoming topics and episodes and things that we might want to discuss further, or an idea that I was like well, that's great, let's share that out with the world, whatever it may be. So please do join all three of those Facebook groups as you see fit, because it's just a great way to keep the conversations going day to day. So thank you for that. So this episode I wanted to talk a little bit about my own showroom happenings over the past several months. Nothing terribly earth shattering, but I did want to talk about a few like changes we've made and what I see happening from that. In the event that this is helpful to other lighting showrooms, and also jumping back into those Facebook groups, if you listen to this and have a great idea that's working in your showroom, please post it there, because that makes us all a little smarter and more engaged, and I always love learning of other showrooms and how they're finding success in maybe even non-traditional ways, because it can always be a challenge. So I've mentioned before I believe that my showroom is not in a like highly traveled shopping corridor of my area. So we're just not. Savannah is a decent sized city. It's not a huge one, you know. I think at any given time. Like half of the population is tourists, but that's an exaggeration, but it's still just a very tourist driven city, especially the downtown area and where our showroom is. It's in a good geographical location in terms of people being able to get to us for a lot of from a lot of different areas, but it's just not like in the middle of like the shopping. So for retail shopping we're kind of in an oddball location. So because of that, about three years ago it was actually just pre COVID I must have had a inkling of what was to come. No, I had no idea. But pre COVID we had rolled back our Saturday hours. We had traditionally been open. You know, as long as I've worked in the business on Saturdays, from 10 to four. We are in the southern Bible Belt, united States, so we've never been open on Sundays and there's not really any call for us to be open on Sundays. So the hours were always Saturday, 10 to four and this was like mid to late 2019 and things were just like not happening on Saturdays. The growth in my area, like the metropolitan area, was really stagnant at that time and they're just and, like I said, we're not in a retail corridor, so I just was like, all right for expense saving and the happiness of my staff, we're just going to, we're going to pull back on the Saturday hours. And so we did that. And then, like shortly and I don't know if it would have stuck as long for it as long as it did if it hadn't been for COVID. But then COVID happened and there was really just kind of no expectation from anybody that we'd be open on Saturday because for a while everything was by appointment Anyway. So we and then everything was like unusually successful during COVID times and then some of these big there started to be a bunch of like industry moving to Savannah, there's this big Hyundai plant being built here, there's all kinds of happenings going on in the metropolitan area and it's starting to grow again. And we really had been stagnant for many, many years. So last Saturday, as I record, this was our first return to official Saturday hours. So when I removed the Saturday hours originally, I said if I ever hear anybody say we're closed on Saturdays, we're just going to open. So that my rule was that we had to say Saturdays were by appointment only. And it did work. You know, a few people like industry colleagues pointed out to me that, like if that was me, it would be kind of off putting like I wouldn't want to have to feel like I'm forcing somebody to come in on their day off to work with me. And I totally get it. And what ended up happening on those Saturdays was often just like standard builder appointments with homeowners that just couldn't make it in Monday through Friday or just, quite frankly, didn't want to leave work and then go sit in a lighting showroom for a couple hours to make fixture selections. So then they come in on a Saturday to do that. So we still had regular Saturday activity, but we just weren't officially open. So last Saturday we returned, I did shrink the hours. This was kind of a concession to my staff because, again, it's been three years since we've had regular Saturday hours and so everyone not everyone, but several members of my staff and including some key members never worked for me during the Saturday hours era. So I wanted to make sure that this was something we could all do, and so the hour we reopened with hours of 10 am to 2 pm, and first week out it turned out way better than I imagined we have. If you follow this my store on social media, you'll see that we did promote it pretty regularly for the month leading up to. You know it's worked out as well as a return to hour when you're not in a retail traffic area. Like it worked out as well as it possibly could. And I am happy that I only selected that limited hours, not only for my staff and their happiness, but it did seem to be like just the right amount. Like we still had an appointment and they were able to come in. We had browsers and a lot of the reason for this ties in like redoing the Saturday hours, bringing that back. It ties into a couple things, one being like the current economy in my little area, but I think there's, you know, broad strokes for a lot of us and it has to do with how we've been re-merchandising and buying for the store itself. So I have some, you know, really great team members. Like I love them all to pieces. They all do amazing work in like their unique specialties and I've got a few people right now, one in particular who acts as our showroom creative director and she's really good at merchandising. She can turn, take components and make it something magical. So because of her expertise in this area, we've been really leaning into buying more accessories and gift products for the showroom and because we didn't have these Saturday hours, we were kind of missing out on people that might just be out running errands on a Saturday. Again, we're not in super high retail area so it still makes sense to me for hours to be more limited. But if we're going to have all of this like grab and go you know, gift basket, decor, hostess, host, gift items well then I need to be open when people are out on the weekend shopping for whatever upcoming event they have or the party they're going to that night or on Saturday or whatever the case may be. So that was also part of the reason for bringing back the Saturday hours is just to give more retail shopping opportunity to support this new buying. We've done so, I think, well. I know from our numbers it has been moderately successful and it's definitely been like a hit or miss proposition, like some things have done surprisingly well in the decor gift area for us and some things I thought, oh, this is great, I would see this in a store and totally want to buy it and it's kind of been a dud. So definitely, if you're not already bringing in like gifts and merchandise and that kind of accessories. If you're not already doing it, really look into it, expect some things are going to fail. But I would try a wide variety of things and this is where I would absolutely lean on all of your staff members for things that they're interested in, like. If you know it's the same with selecting light fixtures for display to some degree, that you want to select things that you know your staff loves, because that's what they're going to point it out to all the clients that come in. But it also helps, especially with like the gift and accents and that kind of thing too, that there's some manner of product that they have brought into the store and that they really like and just love to have on display and show customers. So it's been working pretty well. Ups and downs. There are some things we've tried that will sell through or put on clearance or never gonna bring them back again, and there's some things that we've already re repurchased for the store. I was actually kind of surprised at some of the success we've had with merchandise that's branded like with my company's logo. I would never would have thought, but it there's been a few things that have been pretty popular. So I highly recommend some of that where it makes sense. And if you want a specific suggestion, reach out to me directly, since we are heading into a sponsored format of the podcast, not going to drop too many brand names unless they're intentional, so but if you want some suggestions, I'm happy to give them to you one on one. So we have the merchandising, the Saturday hours and all of this kind of revolves in a somewhat tangential way and very related way to my staff and their engagement. So Saturday hours in the Facebook group, the lighting showroom Facebook group LWL dash lighting showrooms. I had made a poll about Saturday hours just out of curiosity and it did appear. So the results of the poll were that 72% our showroom is open ever Saturday and always has been. There's just 6%, like me, that our showroom is open every Saturday but hasn't always been. And then there are 22% of respondents to the poll said our showroom is not open on Saturdays but we used to be. So lots of people are opting out of Saturday hours and there was an option that, no, our showroom is not open on Saturdays and never has been. There were no takers on that option. So the Saturday hours is real tricky with staff and, again. That's partly why I just did that 10 to two hours. If I was in, if I was directly across from the shopping mall, I would be open 10 to four or something more reasonable like a longer time frame on a Saturday. But since we're not, I opted to keep it small a shorter window, and part of that is just for my staff like I'm already asking this change of them, and I want it to be as accommodating as possible to their schedules. Because here's the thing with staff and lighting. This isn't the gap, right? Oh, I just dropped an e-brand but they're not in the lighting industry, doesn't matter. But this is, this isn't like a low stakes job at the mall where you just kind of show up, you do your, your task list for the day, you interact with customers, but it's not, not doesn't have to be like highly, highly skilled. Lighting. Sales is a skilled job, not just on the sales part of it, but on the lighting knowledge, if people come in with all kinds of random questions and issues and problems and you have to be able to troubleshoot and think through them and you don't just drop in on day one having never worked in a lighting showroom before and can do all of the things that are required of you. It is a slow, long learning process and to be really good at it you have to do it for years and years to really get the full background needed. So it's a super professional, highly skilled job to work as a salesperson in a lighting and fan showroom and that person doesn't really wanna work on Saturdays. Usually, like that person that is so good at that is more of a you know, nine to five office, remote work, flexible work Kind of employee. But when you have a retail showroom you have showroom hours and somebody needs to be there and there is this expectation in the showroom that any client could walk in and they maybe just want to see what you have in stock and pick up a five light shine and chandelier and take it home with them. But they might come in and have a real issue with their recess lighting and want to really am or want to swap out for some LED trim and they want to really get into the nitty gritty details about like their recess lighting. And then you would need to know that there's different kinds of recess lighting. Is a low voltage? Is it line voltage? Is it halo style? Is it Juno style? Is it Light a layer? Is it progress? Because they're different works with the different housings that might already exist in the ceiling, and so it's just not a. It's just not straightforward, and the expectation of any customer walking into my showroom, or any of anyone else listening to this podcast, is that whoever greets them in that showroom is going to be able to answer those questions or get them to a person present in the store that can. So even if you have somebody that works like part time is a greeter or assistant, they might not know the answer to the question, but they know how to get you to the person who does. There's just an expectation that you're going to come in and get this knowledge. So you can't really like short change it on a Saturday or weekend or early morning or late afternoon hours by like removing all of the expertise from the building. So it is just a challenge absolutely with Saturday hours and having a professional staff, and that's why 22% of the respondents in this poll said that they're not open on Saturdays, and they used to be. I guarantee 100% of those decisions maybe happened or started during COVID, but then continued, because it does make this professional staff happier to have their weekends off. It is just like this tug of war between, like the kind of business and then the kind of work that we primarily do. If you're leaning in more to retail sales, like I'm trying to, with the merchandising and the gift, well then you do have to have availability when people aren't also at work, and flexible and for a while also flexible work schedules were kind of allowing more regular weekday traffic. But, as we all know, while there is still flexibility in work schedules, it's not quite as flexible as it used to be and people are required to be back in the office, and so we really were seeing that every day, monday through Friday, traffic kind of slow down for a variety of reasons. Also economy at large, recession fears, all of that but we also know that people's work schedules aren't quite as flexible as they were at one time a couple years ago, even a year ago so my business has had to adjust to that and so we're going to see how it goes. But I think these Saturday hours are going to be with us For a while. It is just a real challenge to do this and keep staff engaged and not have them be frustrated, and this isn't just Saturday hours, this is kind of the industry at large right now. While everything was so busy and like popping off, like my staff was engaged almost all day, every day, there was plenty going on. As things have tailored off to like tapered off a bit, we have days and times in the showroom where I feel like everyone's just kind of like sitting around staring at each other. Yes, we have downtime tasks and, yes, by and large, people stay on task and stay busy, but the energy is just different. You know, like it's not quite as like high energy go, go, go as it was, and that is definitely leading to like peaks and valleys and employee performance as well. It's just a thing, it happens, but I'm trying to find ways to keep encouragement and engagement up during those peaks and valleys. It really has been such smooth sailing for a few years that this is kind of like oh, what's going on? Now? This is all just a little bit harder than it used to be, and I came into the industry at the great recession, so like for me, everything seems easy compared to like those times. Like what are you talking about? This is nothing. But for someone who didn't work in the showroom during those times, it does feel like things have like dried up and pulled back a bit and then their engagement declines because it was like I had appointment after appointment and retail customer and this and that, and now it's like that same thing, but less. Like somebody turned the volume down and it is hard to stay energized in your job when you were like on volume 10 and now you're on volume six and you're like, nah, it's just not as engaging as it was once was. So we're really trying to work on that in my showroom and how we, in the absence of those like high highs that we used to have, how do we keep everybody engaged and learning and growing in their jobs and excited to come to work every day and not like drudgery I've mentioned it before on the podcast like I totally get it, because before I found my passion in my career, I absolutely had jobs that I did not love before this, and so like I see these memes and they're, like you know, like making fun of bosses or management or shady comments, and like they drive me nuts, but it's like I'm just triggered by them. You know, I used to have that perception of some of my jobs. I left jobs because of a bad work environment in my younger years and I just don't ever want anybody to experience that as much as I can prevent it from leadership position down. It's just such a challenge. And then I make things harder for myself by doing something like adding Saturday hours back on when they weren't there. When this person was hired, I was very clear in all job interviews that Saturday hours were a thing that could happen. So it's not like no one had forewarning, even from the very first moment they had a conversation with me. But that's just a thing that we're working on, or I'm trying to really finesse how we keep everybody engaged and happy and growing in their jobs, because there still is opportunity. There's always something to learn, there's always a new problem to solve, always a new client to reach out to. The area we live in is actually luckily having growth right now due to this industry moving in, so there is still opportunity for us. It's just a little bit harder to find. You know it isn't knocking on the door the way it was two years ago. We have to go and grab it a bit more. But here we are. So that's a little update on what's been going on in my showroom world. I have another big project underway that I'm going to discuss in a future episode, but those are just some of the ups and downs that we've been having in my lighting showroom. So get in that Facebook group. Lighting showrooms, lwl-lighting showrooms Just search lighting showrooms in Facebook groups. Join that group. Let's get conversations going and we'll be talking about them even more on future episodes. Hey, I'm so glad you all are here. I appreciate it so much. If you know a great sponsor for this podcast, spend them my way. We're going to make this great content that you're going to want to tune into every week. Say subscribe, leave five stars, kind words. I appreciate you all so much. Have a great day. Until next time, take care.

Updates and Opportunities for Lighting Professionals
Saturday Hours and Merchandising Changes
Saturday Staffing Challenges in Lighting Showrooms