85-yr-old Capitol Lighting's new kiosk program can help retailers sell lighting
Susan Dickenson -- Home Accents Today, January 1, 2011
In business since 1924, retailer Capitol Lighting has offered customers a large selection of decorative residential lighting choices for the home - from contemporary ceiling lights to chandeliers, portables and outdoor lighting. The company rings up more than $30 million annually, operating out of eight showrooms in New Jersey and Florida,
The company offers about 3,000 items in its eight stores and 500,000 items online.
Capitol Lighting's Boca Raton showroom is one of this year's ARTS Awards finalists for best Lighting Showroom, East Atlantic region.
The lighting retailer's current operations are the offspring of a family tradition that dates to 1924, the year Max Lebersfeld, an electrical contractor and immigrant from Austria-Hungary, opened a light fixture store in Newark, N.J.
Today the company is led by the founder's great-grandsons, brothers Ken and Eric Lebersfeld, CEO and president, respectively. One of their biggest challenges right now is selling in a recession, and to a very depressed housing market.
"The majority of our sales are tied to the construction and sales of new homes and the home remodeling industry," Eric Lebersfeld said. "With the slowdown of new and previously owned home sales, our business has had to adjust to the times."
Those adjustments have come in the form of several new marketing strategies. "One of the competitive moves we made was to announce our guaranteed low Internet price every day," he said. "By doing that, in effect, we were able to move from being completely sales driven to guarantee driven.
"We also developed a store in Stuart, Fla., with less square footage - 3,400 showroom feet and 1,000 warehouse feet - in both the display and warehouse areas. To augment the smaller space for display and stores, we've installed large computer monitors. Our lighting consultants work with customers by showing items on display and browsing our selection of thousands of fixtures on our website."
Capitol Lighting’s kiosk program joins Internet technology with the in-store experience, to show more in less space.
The Lebersfelds said the smaller Stuart store is showing great promise. "Sales at that location are up about 23%, while sales at our other stores are not enjoying the same increase. The rent factor at the Stuart showroom is much lower since the footprint is much smaller. We have no office staff, and all personnel are cross-trained to do all jobs. It's a small store, and everyone does what he or she needs to do to satisfy the customer."
Bricks and clicks in-store kiosk program
The Stuart store's "bricks and clicks" model has proven to be such a success, in fact, that Capitol Lighting is developing the program as an offering to home furnishings retailers who are looking for a way to make the lamps and lighting category more profitable in their own stores.
The program is designed to maximize the benefits of both online and brick-and-mortar shopping/selling and, particularly in Capitol's case, provide the retailer with the added value and confidence of decades of expertise - Capitol Lighting's established vendor relationships, knowledge about product construction, help navigating the complex assortment of lighting products, vendors and price levels.
In this scenario, the retail customers view options at one of two workstations, where they can see samples of different crystals from each manufacturer and touch the different finishes. A store salesperson may further advise the customer about other products or customizations, aided by the computer kiosk. Customers can set up an online shopping cart and complete the sale over the Internet, or buy the fixture in the store.
Ken Lebersfeld said the idea for taking the program to other retailers comes from years of understanding the challenges and complexities involved in selling the category.
"Furniture stores have traditionally avoided selling lighting and lamps," he explained. "There are several challenges involved in merchandising and purchasing inventory of these products. The industry is very fragmented on the vendor side. Many vendors sell similar products and it is difficult to differentiate good quality from mediocre without an intimate knowledge of what to look for.
"In our product analysis, we look at how products are constructed. For one small example, welded frames are better than frames that are screwed together. We also look at how they are welded. If the welds are smoothed and painted so they are unnoticeable, the quality impression is much higher than if the welds look uneven. Details like this are difficult for the untrained buyer to notice."
Last spring, in an article for the Palm Beach Post, Mara Devitt, a partner with retail consulting firm McMillan Doolittle, applauded Capitol Lighting's initiative. "In their particular niche, I'm not aware of anyone doing exactly what they're doing," she said. "They'll have to keep tweaking it, of course. ... Stores have been way too big for many years now. This shows us where technology is letting us go with the future of retail and retail spaces."
Home accent and furniture retailers interested in learning more about Capitol Lighting's kiosk program should contact Ken Lebersfeld at 561-536-4335.
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