An email campaign hit lighting industry members’ inboxes in May that caused quite a stir. A grassroots movement has sprung up among lighting showroom veterans who have operated physical lighting stores (as opposed to online retail) for more than a decade and have banded together to make their voices heard.
“Our goal is not to hurt the vendors,” said a source at brickandmortarlighting.com. “The customers who want to buy a particular manufacturer’s lighting fixture will still buy that lighting fixture. The manufacturer won’t lose the sale. All we’d like to see change is where they buy it from.
According to the founders of brickandmortarlighting.com, approximately 15 percent of all lighting purchases are made online – and most of those purchases are made through several prominent lighting e-tailers. As the brickandmortarlighting.com members see it, the partnership between lighting manufacturers and e-commerce sites leave the physical lighting showroom out to dry. “We’re not given the opportunity to make that sale and yet we are the ones who are stuck delivering and repairing the merchandise, honoring the manufacturer warranties, and taking back returns,” says the source at brickandmortarlighting.com. “We just want the vendors to understand our viewpoint,’” the source adds. “We don’t believe that by having manufacturers supporting the bricks and mortar customers alone will result in a decrease in business, but it would eliminate the dot-com business model.”
According to brickandmortarlighting.com, “Many online lighting sales are facilitated by manufacturer Web sites, which have direct links that allow shoppers to easily buy from certain e-commerce sites. These sites operate as virtual stores, without showing or stocking any inventory. As a result, these Internet-based companies rely on traditional lighting showrooms to display the merchandise for their customers to view. “
“We’re not threatening or strong-arming vendors,” the source at brickandmortarlighting.com states. “We’re trying to educate them on how this [practice] hurts the brick and mortar dealers. We just want to have a unified voice coming from the showrooms. It can be a win-win for both parties. If the customer wants a Buick, he or she is going to get a Buick. We are just concerned about where they are buying that Buick. We hope that our viewpoint is understood and everyone can shake hands at the end.”
The recent passage by the U.S. Senate of S.743, the Marketplace Fairness Act regarding charging sales tax on all Internet purchases is a positive step in this direction. “I think the tide is turning,” says the brickandmortarlighting.com source.
Brickandmortarlighting.com will have members attending the Dallas lighting market in June and will have stickers and buttons available for retailers and manufacturers to visibly show their support for this cause. There is also an open letter to vendors and manufacturers on the group’s site, which can be access here: http://brickandmortarlighting.com/An%20Open%20Letter.htm