Luminary – Retail: Brett Robinson – Robinson Lighting & Bath, Canada
How did you get started in the industry?
Well, the easy answer is that it’s a family business. I am a fifth generation Robinson in the lighting business if you include Thomas Robinson who was a “chandler” (candle maker) in Montreal around 1850. Needless to say lighting is in my genes! I used to go to work with my Dad (Bruce) when I was as young as five years old. I would walk around the store and talk to all the employees. It just seemed like a natural progression to start working for the family business at age 15. Now, 24 years later, I am in a slightly different role.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
The biggest change is explained in three letters: L-E-D. It’s fun to be a part of it because this is an exciting time for the lighting industry. We will definitely have some growing pains, and we are going through them now.
Approximately 15-20 years ago, you would see lighting [product] families stick around for years and they were consistently good sellers. Then lighting became more of a fashion industry with lighting families coming and going almost yearly. Once LED entered the market, it seems technology is changing faster than we would like. We want to stay current and be a leader in the LED market, but [you need] to fully commit and stock heavily in the new LED technology because the new generation is right around the corner.
What is the greatest challenges?
LED is going to be one of our biggest challenges. We are having LED lamps/fixtures failing on job sites where there are multiple fixtures. When one fails, what do we do? If we are giving a five-year warranty on these lamps or fixtures and one fails three or four years later, we won’t be able to get the same lumen or kelvin temperature because numerous generations have already replaced the older lamp or fixture.
What has been the key to your success?
Even though we have multiple branches, we still need to treat our employees like family. We are a family owned business and our 80+ staff are an extension of our family. My father, Bruce Robinson always made sure our staff felt like family and we have carried on that tradition.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
I would have jumped on the e-commerce aspect of the business a lot earlier. Talking with my U.S. lighting friends it seems the Internet plays a much larger role than it does in Canada. Thankfully, Canadians still like to touch and feel the fixtures. Trying to get products across the U.S./Canadian border can be challenging for the end-user.
What do you think the future holds?
I know this OLED light source isn’t catching on near as much as the typical LED, but once the pricing gets in line, the options are endless with size and shape ― for example, even going one step further by incorporating OLED with wall textures, like paint. LEDs have made people talk about lighting a lot more, and it will go to the next level when OLED becomes more of a household name.