Most serious buyers know that the local lighting stores buy from several dozen lighting suppliers. Each year in January and in June, the Lightovation trade show takes place for five days in Dallas and features the latest designs in lighting from about a hundred sources.
Lights ON Banks always attends both shows so that our key sales and purchasing staff can keep current. It’s a costly venture to travel, stay and attend. Two full days of travel – and never a direct flight from Kelowna – gets us there and back. Leave Kelowna on Monday and back Saturday night.
So what happens there? First, “Lightovation” is held at the Dallas Trade Mart, two massive display buildings – one 12 stories tall and the other four. Both are “atrium” designs with huge open center space from the ground floor to the top. Showrooms ring the atrium, many 5,000 square feet or more. Some are permanent, some are seasonal. For lighting, most supplier showrooms are only staffed for two weeks out for the year during Lightovation, yet they remain fully stocked with lighting fixtures and displays year-round.
Our day begins early by catching a hotel shuttle to the Trade Mart, about a ten minute drive from our downtown hotel. The shuttles run every half hour from 8AM to 8PM. Arriving at “market”, our team usually heads to the Quorum Lighting showroom for breakfast at 8 where we usually meet up with Tim Harris and his son Brett of Norlite (from Bolton, Ontario) – the Canadian distributor for Quorum and Fanimation Fans. Quorum cooks breakfast fresh in front of you – omelets, usually, with your choice of ingredients. Always good and tasty. With bellies full, it’s off to our first appointment with one of our lighting reps. This may stretch for several hours depending upon what suppliers are involved and how much is “new” in the showrooms.
Walking is a constant activity and we usually clock in at 25 miles on the pedometer by show’s end. That’s about 5 miles each day. Thank goodness there’s escalators! If we fit two or three lighting rep visits per day we are lucky. Then there is the constant return to the showrooms to do recall and place orders. Fortunately, almost every showroom has refreshments and libations to offer, all day long, all free. Easy to over-indulge, but an absolute necessity for keeping the energy levels up.
The American Lighting Association hosts the Lightovation event and provides a constant stream of seminars and workshops for participants – and there are thousands of participants from all over the globe who attend the show.
Towards the end of each day, the appointments slow down and the socializing begins to pick up, with key showrooms providing after-hour events, such a s karaoke or casino. Some hold formal dinners off-site for customers and reps. Lightovation presents “Lighting After Dark” at the Sheraton Hotel on the Wednesday evening – with a live band and dancing and a lot of noise. Most nights, however, it’s simply back to the hotel (we generally stay at the historic Magnolia on Commerce Street) and settle in for a drink or two and some happy-hour appies before heading off to bed for the night. Up at 7 the next morning, grab a Starbucks and hop on the shuttle to repeat the process.
We generally have our last appointments on Saturday morning, take the limo for the 30 minute drive to DFW airport (provided free because we are “luminaries” – a gift bestowed after ten consecutive attendances), and head home, usually a one- or two-stop ordeal getting us back to the Okanagan in the late evening. Our luggage is packed with new catalogs, give-away trinkets and lots of laundry. The staff has seen literally thousands of lighting fixtures and accessories, has gained an insight into trends and new styles and has reconnected with many folks in the industry.
In the final analysis, the $12,000 or so that we spend each year to do the two trips keeps us on the leading edge. It keeps us sharp. Many times we are hunting for specific pieces for current clients. Sometimes a supplier will have a “show special” if the purchase order is placed at market, so we try to buy so that we can pass the savings from good purchasing on to our customers.
Back in the store, the remaining personnel have to make up for our absence – so sacrifices on their part too. Dallas – it’s quite an event in our world so that we can make a difference in yours.