From healthy participation in trade organizations such as the American Lighting Association, buying groups such as Lighting One and Spectra, and representation at the major trade shows, the Canadian and American markets are very much intertwined.
Gone are the days when there were clear delineations in style preferences between these two countries occupying the same continent. Thanks to the internet, TV home shows, and shelter magazines, today’s North American consumers have similar tastes in home décor and lighting. And while many Canadian lighting showrooms and electrical distributors enjoy supporting those lighting companies headquartered in Canada, naturally many showcase products from manufacturers south of their border.
“Years ago, trends and designs might have varied between the United States and Canada, but since the world’s form of communication improved with the internet – and specifically social media – many trends are in common within both countries,” observes Scott Cohen, Director/Operations for Toronto-based Artcraft Lighting, which has been manufacturing lighting for the North American market for nearly 65 years. “There are certainly markets within both countries that are sometimes slower to adopt new trends, and that is why we have a wide selection of products that cover many home décor styles and preferences.”
“The American and Canadian markets are similar, but within each country there are certainly regional differences,” adds Kim Halverson, Customer Service & Sales for Matteo Lighting, headquartered in Surrey, British Columbia. “Cities with high density prefer clean lines and smaller-scale fixtures to accommodate for small living spaces,” she explains.
“Natural materials such as wood, stone, and granite are becoming more popular in many regions of both countries,” Halverson continues. “One or two larger-scale lighting fixtures over an island or table is definitely the trend. While the sizes and styles are the same for both countries, where exactly they sell best is often different. The U.S., for example, has a bigger market for outdoor lighting due to the temperate climate in many areas that expands the living space to include the outdoors year-round. That has prompted us to investigate expanding into outdoor fixtures.”
Artcraft is unique in that it has been under family ownership for three generations. “It has been the Artcraft tradition to provide lighting designs and products using craftsmanship, fashion, and technology while always being sensitive to the North American home and its requirements,” Cohen states. “We are now the oldest lighting company in Canada. Since our infancy, we have been manufacturing in Canada and have continued to do so with product categories that can still be competitively priced. When customers see the “Made in North America” hang tags on our products, it gives many a great sense of pride. Currently with the new imposed tariffs, American customers find our ‘tariff-free’ North American-made products even more attractive. Our domestically made products are hand-stained or painted, and assembled right here in Canada.”
Most Canadian lighting manufacturers have made faster shipping a priority by establishing distribution centers within the United States. This eliminates any delays at customs/border control and effectively competes with the shipping times promised by U.S.-based companies.
“Artcraft is still a family-based company, and through our tight relationships with our customers, we feel the lighting industry is like an extended family,” Cohen says. “We have always tried our best to be as close to our customers as possible, and [for that reason] we are part of the American Lighting Association, Lighting One, and Spectra plus have a permanent showroom in the Dallas Market Center.”
Matteo Lighting is also an enthusiastic supporter of the ALA. “With the changing environment in lighting, it is especially important to support the ALA and attend the conference,” Halverson remarks. “As a growing company, it is vital to hear what the upcoming changes and industry trends are. Networking at the ALA Conference is key to open communication in the industry.” Matteo’s relatively new permanent showroom in the Dallas Market Center is its own permanent display space for North American buyers.
“Matteo has been selling to the U.S. since 2011 on a very small scale, predominately on the West Coast and upper East Coast,” Halverson recounts. “Since opening the Dallas showroom, our customer base has expanded immensely. We now have accounts throughout the country and are opening new ones every day. It is an exciting time for Matteo and we look forward to continued growth. The only Canadian shows we currently participate in of are smaller regional annual shows for buying groups,” she notes.
Thanks to greater exposure to overall trends and business practices on a global scale, the lighting industry in North America has indeed become even more closely aligned, including safety certification and educational accreditation programs. It’s a small world after all.