Today's light-fixture distribution channels are “convoluted, confusing and almost crooked,” according to Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA). This week the buying group announced plans to “disrupt” the market with a “dramatic expansion” into the lighting space for its members.
The announcement, which was made at the buying group’s 2017 Fall Members Conference in Chicago, sets in motion plans to aggressively grow its members’ residential lighting business by offering new design capabilities, an expanded assortment of high-performance LED lighting fixtures, and other associated services.
The plans revealed by the organization today were developed in conjunction with Tom Doherty, the organization’s recently added director of new technology initiatives. Doherty has spent the last nine years specializing in high-performance lighting and worked with HTSA management to put a plan in place to drive their overall residential lighting segment.
“We intend to be the leaders in this space,” says Doherty. “That may be disruptive, but this is a significant opportunity for our channel. In most cases, custom integrators are not involved in lighting design and fixtures. The current distribution model in the lighting business prevents integrators from getting direct relationships with lighting manufacturers. It is a market with confusing and convoluted distribution practices. It is almost crooked.”
Over the past nine years as a lighting design consultant, Doherty says he became frustrated with the lighting fixture business model. He says the lighting market distribution channel makes it difficult to know the actual price of fixtures.
“It is like buying a plane ticket,” he says in frustration. “The price depends on the date and time when you try to buy. You don’t know what the price will be. There is no line-item pricing in the lighting business.”
Meanwhile, he continues, “The majority of home plans have no lighting design and no lighting plan. The extent of lighting design is typically just a walkthrough by the clients with the electrician. In some cases, the homeowner visits a lighting showroom to pick out a handful of fixtures, but then the electrician ‘fills in’ the rest of the lighting with commodity 6-inch cans. The market has not made it simple for integrators to get into lighting.”
That lack of design means, according to Doherty, that it's not uncommon for a $5 million home to have the same value of lighting fixtures as a $500,000 home. He notes it is not atypical for a large home to have 200 to 300 lighting fixtures in it.
Key Partnerships Made with Lighting Fixture Manufacturers
HTSA’s plans include assisting members in expanding services in lighting-system design and related services. While HTSA members are well served in lighting control systems from brands such as Control4, Savant, Vantage and others, the group will add lighting fixtures to the mix that will allow members to offer an expanded assortment of high performance lighting.
To this end, HTSA has partnered with four major lighting fixture manufacturers. These lines have agreed to adjust their normal operating processes to better meet the needs of HTSA members. These new brands are:
“The lighting fixture industry alone is a $32.5 billion business that dwarfs the $14 billion custom integration industry,” adds Doherty, who notes that HTSA's new lighting fixture manufacturer partners are taking a risk due to the disruptive nature of dealing with integrators directly. “There is a tremendous opportunity for HTSA members to introduce their clients to a powerful expanded mix of new fixtures, as well as lighting design and other associated services, delighting their customers and increasing their share of the lucrative lighting market at the same time.”
“The overall lighting business is huge, but there is comparatively little penetration of the high performance lighting segment in residential custom integration today,” says Jon Robbins, executive director of HTSA. “There are many reasons why this situation exists, including low consumer awareness and the convoluted distribution practices of the lighting industry. However, HTSA has developed a plan in partnership with several key lighting fixture manufacturers that will allow HTSA members to offer an exciting package of new products and services that will dramatically drive their revenues and profits.”
Not About Installing Lights
The initiative is not about installing lighting fixtures, but about specifying them and recommending placement. Very few HTSA members have line voltage electrical licenses. The electricians will still do the physical installation, but the integrator will be working closely with the architect and homeowner to do lighting design and purchase the fixtures. HTSA is still working on the recommendations on how integrators can learn to become lighting designers.
The group is also working with Lightology, a Chicago-based lighting company to train HTSA members in the art and science of lighting design following the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) guidelines. The lighting fixture business, similar to the smart home industry, has margin at the high end on the product side, with little margin at the commodity level.
Doherty noted that integrators can quickly become experts in lighting fixture selection in the eyes of clients by citing the multiple decisions that must be made in order to properly spec a fixture, including:
- Color Rendering Index (CRI)
- Color corrulated temperature (CCT)
- Dimming driver options (Triac, 0-10V, ecobus, 2-wire, Dali, DMX)
- Lighting spread (narrow vs. wide)
- Wall wash
- Wet location vs. dry location
- IC rating (whether or not insulation can touch the housing in the ceiling)
“Getting into lighting design and fixtures is a bigger leap for many dealers than moving from lighting control into shades,” notes Doherty.
Members like Andrea Reiner of Innerspace Electronics in Port Chester, N.Y., are excited about the initiative, primarily because it will allow custom integration companies to get engaged in the building process much earlier.
“The big deal is the ability to get involved in projects earlier and spec the lighting,” she comments. Innerspace has been involved in lighting design for 20 years. She admits there is a balancing act with the egos of the architects and electricians, who are the trades that have previously spec’ed the lighting. Since the integrators will now be buying the fixtures, she is not sure how some electricians will like that.
Another HTSA member, Keith Burrowes of Sierra Integrated Systems in Reno, Nev., is also excited about the move, commenting that his company is “all in” on lighting fixtures and design.