enLIGHTenment Magazine pays tribute to some of the most illustrious members of our industry.
Category: Leader, Rep
Elise Severson Gilchrist CLC, CLMR
The Early Days:
I got into the lighting business at age 38. I have a degree in accounting and through a series of events I ended up with a retail hearth and gas appliance store in the 1990s. Business was good, but I was working 24/7 with two young daughters. My late husband had a plumbing business that was doing all the installs and that seemed to be where the money was. I needed to be more available for my girls, so I went to work doing accounting and high-end lighting sales for a business acquaintance who owned a lighting showroom. In 2004, I entered the world of manufacturers’ representation, joining my favorite rep Jacklyn Stanton in her agency Lytestyles. She was in east Tennessee, so I took her lines to middle and western Tennessee. I became involved in the ALA that year and love it! I believe anyone who earns their living through an industry has the responsibility of being involved in that industry’s association!
Technology has changed things. Jackie and I went to the first annual LED conference in Chicago in the fall of 2008, and began our learning process. That was truly eye-opening! We have worked to be the “go-to” agency in our area for energy-efficient lighting solutions. Training is key to our agency’s success. The showroom sales people have to be more educated than ever, not only because of changing technology in our industry, but because they are dealing with a much more educated customer base. End-users are “doing their homework” before they ever enter a lighting showroom, and the salespeople must be prepared. In addition, we must train the architects and designers in our area. Showroom owners need to really understand the importance of a well-trained staff.
What Lies Ahead:
I feel the lighting showrooms will need some form of diversification – door hardware or outdoor living products – and they must have a showroom full of portables and accessories. They have to pull their customers back in on a regular basis. In addition, showrooms need to stay up to date on all relevant regulations. Their customers need to know they can come to them for not only beautiful product and proper lighting design, but also knowledge. Showrooms also must have an e-commerce site and manage it well.