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Old 08-06-2014, 08:20 PM
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INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting is offline
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Manufacturer Direct Sales - Hurting Us In Ways Not Fully Appreciated

Last week I received an email from a friend of mine. He is a talented and successful lighting guy who knows his stuff. Not one to participate on this forum for a variety of reasons, he asked that I forward his note onto here so that more industry pro's could see how Manufacturers who are selling direct to the consumer are hurting our businesses.

Initially I was going to copy his note verbatim, but after further reflection, I have decided to edit out the trade names of the companies mentioned. Mostly so that this post stays online and is not edited or deleted in protest. If you have been following the threads here lately, you will not have much difficulty in figuring out who he is talking about.

"Good afternoon. I trust you and the family are well.

I lost a job to a 24yr old doctor client who shopped online and found [ABC Brand]. He said they will sell him fixtures at $40-$60 a pop (includes brass integrated LED or copper with retrofit LED) and give him lifetime warranty. I had no answer for my client when I was trying to sell him [123 Brand] and something of value. He asked why my prices were so high. I sold him on my talents and value, but the fixture costs were three times higher, as were the LED options.

I am still wiring up the [ABC brand] fixtures because we do a million things for this guy, and he is very cheap and stingy – still a good guy. I did not have an answer, but lost about $10,000 of redo work for an existing client! [ABC Brand] told him that they can sell to him at better prices than he would get from a contractor and they can support him, the homeowner, as that is what they are good at and known for. Contractor quality for the homeowner. I do not post anything online, because I hate my clients to find anything I write online.

All I could say, that is good pricing. I cannot come close to competing with those prices. I told my warranty was better and they said they warranty for life. I was sick about it, he had already ordered the fixtures and he was asking me to comment on quality. I could not tell him they were terrible, because they were not terrible. I just HATE that they market and sell direct to the homeowner. It sucks.
"

So, do you guys still think it doesn't matter if a Manufacturer publishes deeply discounted prices and sells direct to the consumer at equal to or near the same prices as they sell to you? I still maintain, it matters a great deal.
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INTEGRA ~ Bespoke Lighting Systems ®
JSLDesign Inc.


www.integralighting.com

www.facebook.com/INTEGRA.Lighting

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  #2  
Old 08-06-2014, 08:29 PM
whiffyspark whiffyspark is online now
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Nope.

Times are changing. Irrigation is the same way. Just look at sprinkler warehouse.

The fact of the matter is lighting is a luxury. I've lost just as many jobs for everything from Home Depot. Anything from lights, sprinklers, retaining walls etc. People are starting to become more and more price conscious. Gone are the times you can charge whatever you wanted to and get away with it.

You either have to adapt or get out. That particular many that you keep rambling off about isn't going anywhere or changing anything. They are in business to make money and they are damn good at it
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  #3  
Old 08-06-2014, 08:42 PM
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INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting is offline
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True, they may not change their ways and they may be good at it, but that does not mean that we have to support them by patronizing them.

Thankfully the vast majority of my clients still value and appreciate my talent, skill, abilities, art, and creativity and are willing to pay for those highly valuable assets. This affords me the opportunity to completely dismiss the notion of ever buying anything from a Manufacturer hell bent on racing to the bottom.

Did you happen to miss the part where the manufacturer suggested that they can 'support' the client better than the contractor can? LOL, this I would like to see in action.
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INTEGRA ~ Bespoke Lighting Systems ®
JSLDesign Inc.


www.integralighting.com

www.facebook.com/INTEGRA.Lighting

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  #4  
Old 08-06-2014, 09:19 PM
Weekend cut easymoney Weekend cut easymoney is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whiffyspark View Post
Nope.

Times are changing. Irrigation is the same way. Just look at sprinkler warehouse.

The fact of the matter is lighting is a luxury. I've lost just as many jobs for everything from Home Depot. Anything from lights, sprinklers, retaining walls etc. People are starting to become more and more price conscious. Gone are the times you can charge whatever you wanted to and get away with it.

You either have to adapt or get out. That particular many that you keep rambling off about isn't going anywhere or changing anything. They are in business to make money and they are damn good at it
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I Agree with this...adapt ...innovate....part of the issue is the cost of service is making more and more folks try to do it themselves.
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  #5  
Old 08-06-2014, 11:31 PM
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JimLewis JimLewis is online now
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James,

You're preaching to the choir, here. You know how I feel on the subject. Yah, it freakin' sucks.

Everyone says, "Don't sell the fixture, sell your artistry, your talent, etc." Yah, that's all well and good until you get a good long-term client like this who one day shops you online and finds a similar product for half the price (or less) than what you've been selling them to him. You'll be all for companies selling direct to the consumer until something like this happens to you and you lose a big $20k lighting job because of it. Then all of a sudden maybe you won't feel the same way about manufacturers doing crap like that.

I like that fact that most of the big outdoor lighting manufacturers protect the contractor by maintaining a MAP price for their fixtures online.

That being said, I think in this day and age you have to be prepared for how you're going to answer questions and overcome obstacles in sales. There are a lot of things your friend could have said in his defense and didn't. Either because he didn't know as much about that brand or hadn't prepared enough in advance to consider what he might say if that happened.

Had it been me I would have responded in a few different ways:

First, I would have had a discussion about the warranty. Sure, that brand may have a "lifetime warranty" but we all know those drop-in LED lamps aren't going to last a lifetime. So all they're really saying is they will send you a new lamp once it goes out in 5 or 10 years. I'd compare that to the brand I use that has a 15 year warranty with a fully potted/protected lamp that is completely water-proof, has an outstanding heat sink and will truly last 15+ years without ever needing to change a lamp. I'd bring up the fact that our fixtures are so protected against the elements that I could take one of our spot lights and submerse it in a tub of water for 30 days and it would stay on and working the entire time. You couldn't do that at all with that other fixture. And that speaks of the quality of construction.

Next, I'd mention how the manufacturer we use will allow me an over-the-counter swap for any reason whatsoever if a light stops working. Doesn't matter if it goes out because it's defective, goes out because a car backs over it or goes out because some kid hits it with a baseball bat. Regardless of why the fixture stops working, I can get him a new one completely free. The other brand isn't going to offer anything like that.

Next, I'd mention that our light fixtures are stocked locally and I can switch the fixture out same-day if it's ever needed. If he buys online he's going to have to find his receipt, box it up, wait 4 days for it to arrive, wait a day or two for them to respond, then wait a few more days for the new one to arrive and then he'll have to re-install it himself or pay us to come out and do it. With my fixture, all he has to do is call me and it's switched out same day we come - no charge - no wait.

I'd maybe also go into a discussion of whether you really want or need a LIFETIME warranty on anything electronic. I look at lighting fixtures and technology the same way I look at pretty much any other electronic technology. Whether it's a laptop or cell phone or call, I certainly don't want the same one 15 or 20 years from now that I have today! Why not? Because technology always improves over time! The stuff they'll have 10 or 15 or 20 years from now will be amazing compared to the outdoor lighting we have today. You won't even WANT the same system that far down the road. So really, all you need is a warranty that is strong enough to get you to that point where you will eventually replace all the fixtures - and who knows - maybe even the transformer and wiring - because what they will have then will be so much better.

Anyway, my point is you should always know YOUR products strengths and the other products weaknesses. It doesn't have so much to do with the brand I currently use. No matter what brand I was installing I'd have lots of reasons why I loved that brand and I'd know it inside and out. I'd know my brand's weaknesses are and what it's strengths are, compared to the others. And I'd know the weaknesses of the other brands out there too. Most importantly, I would have a good defense prepared if anyone ever asked me tough questions like that.

I do that with anything I sell, whether it's lighting or pavers or retaining walls. I always have several reasons to defend the product I use. Same thing with my competition. We are in a very competitive market where people are often getting competing bids. I know a lot about all of my competitors. I know where they are weak and where we are strong in certain areas. So there are ways to politely point out those differences, without appearing like you're bad-mouthing the other company. We get real good at that. You have to be in order to succeed these days, IMO.
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  #6  
Old 08-06-2014, 11:36 PM
ledeez ledeez is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting View Post
Last week I received an email from a friend of mine. He is a talented and successful lighting guy who knows his stuff. Not one to participate on this forum for a variety of reasons, he asked that I forward his note onto here so that more industry pro's could see how Manufacturers who are selling direct to the consumer are hurting our businesses.

Initially I was going to copy his note verbatim, but after further reflection, I have decided to edit out the trade names of the companies mentioned. Mostly so that this post stays online and is not edited or deleted in protest. If you have been following the threads here lately, you will not have much difficulty in figuring out who he is talking about.

"Good afternoon. I trust you and the family are well.

I lost a job to a 24yr old doctor client who shopped online and found [ABC Brand]. He said they will sell him fixtures at $40-$60 a pop (includes brass integrated LED or copper with retrofit LED) and give him lifetime warranty. I had no answer for my client when I was trying to sell him [123 Brand] and something of value. He asked why my prices were so high. I sold him on my talents and value, but the fixture costs were three times higher, as were the LED options.

I am still wiring up the [ABC brand] fixtures because we do a million things for this guy, and he is very cheap and stingy – still a good guy. I did not have an answer, but lost about $10,000 of redo work for an existing client! [ABC Brand] told him that they can sell to him at better prices than he would get from a contractor and they can support him, the homeowner, as that is what they are good at and known for. Contractor quality for the homeowner. I do not post anything online, because I hate my clients to find anything I write online.

All I could say, that is good pricing. I cannot come close to competing with those prices. I told my warranty was better and they said they warranty for life. I was sick about it, he had already ordered the fixtures and he was asking me to comment on quality. I could not tell him they were terrible, because they were not terrible. I just HATE that they market and sell direct to the homeowner. It sucks.
"

So, do you guys still think it doesn't matter if a Manufacturer publishes deeply discounted prices and sells direct to the consumer at equal to or near the same prices as they sell to you? I still maintain, it matters a great deal.

Times are changing but that doesn't mean the way the traditional landscape lighting company does business has to change. I would think that the homeowners buying fixtures on these websites either enjoy gardening or spend to much time on home advisor and angies list wasting contractors times. The designs will be sub par and eventually the fixtures will fail. Save a few bucks now on the install and in 5 years pay 200 a hour for a service call. Some homeowners look at garden lighting like painting. They feel they can sand the walls(dig the wire) & buy the paint on sale(fixtures online)... Well most homes ive been in that homeowners painted looked like dog poop. So when a homeowner designs their own system it will also look like dog poop.


Pre qualify the client and move on.
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  #7  
Old 08-07-2014, 02:20 AM
Chris J Chris J is offline
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There are numerous things I don't care for in this industry, including manu's selling to the general public. However, if you are going to insist on pitching a fit over this subject, let me ask a few things more:
1. Is it wrong for outside trades to encroach on your potential business opportunities? Why don't landscapers stick to cutting grass; irrigation companies stick to installing sprinkler systems; landscape architects stick to drawing up plans for LANDSCAPE elements....? Does your distributor refuse to sell these major brands to these folks? Does your distributor care if they are licensed to perform this work?
2. Will your distributor refuse to sell these major brands to their General Contractor clients at anything other than retail? Do you even get pricing as good as the GC's?
3. Do you mind that your manu of choice and/or your supplier has numerous reps that scour the country recruiting anyone and everyone in the green industry to add lighting to their list of services? Regardless of their skill, talent, knowledge of lighting or even the desire to uphold any standard as it relates to quality installation and service? If the industry as a whole is that important to you, shouldn't these things matter more than a company who openly sells to anyone with a desire to purchase?

I know these statements will rub some of you the wrong way, and I apologize if this insults you. There are many contractors who are not "lighting only" but have incredible talent and dedication to the industry. However, there are many, many more who are only in it for the quick buck. While no individual company like this necessarily hurts me, there are a hundred of them in my area. If each of them only get one job per year, that's 100 jobs that I missed out on (but I'll still get the call to fix it!!)
Someone might miss out on a few jobs because they run across a potential client who is an internet shopper, but if they save 60% or more on their total yearly cost for materials, should they even care?

Just saying. My vacation next year will be spent at a tropical location abroad that I actually own instead of renting for the week.
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  #8  
Old 08-07-2014, 02:30 AM
Chris J Chris J is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting View Post
Last week I received an email from a friend of mine. He is a talented and successful lighting guy who knows his stuff. Not one to participate on this forum for a variety of reasons, he asked that I forward his note onto here so that more industry pro's could see how Manufacturers who are selling direct to the consumer are hurting our businesses.

Initially I was going to copy his note verbatim, but after further reflection, I have decided to edit out the trade names of the companies mentioned. Mostly so that this post stays online and is not edited or deleted in protest. If you have been following the threads here lately, you will not have much difficulty in figuring out who he is talking about.

"Good afternoon. I trust you and the family are well.

I lost a job to a 24yr old doctor client who shopped online and found [ABC Brand]. He said they will sell him fixtures at $40-$60 a pop (includes brass integrated LED or copper with retrofit LED) and give him lifetime warranty. I had no answer for my client when I was trying to sell him [123 Brand] and something of value. He asked why my prices were so high. I sold him on my talents and value, but the fixture costs were three times higher, as were the LED options.

I am still wiring up the [ABC brand] fixtures because we do a million things for this guy, and he is very cheap and stingy – still a good guy. I did not have an answer, but lost about $10,000 of redo work for an existing client! [ABC Brand] told him that they can sell to him at better prices than he would get from a contractor and they can support him, the homeowner, as that is what they are good at and known for. Contractor quality for the homeowner. I do not post anything online, because I hate my clients to find anything I write online.

All I could say, that is good pricing. I cannot come close to competing with those prices. I told my warranty was better and they said they warranty for life. I was sick about it, he had already ordered the fixtures and he was asking me to comment on quality. I could not tell him they were terrible, because they were not terrible. I just HATE that they market and sell direct to the homeowner. It sucks.
"

So, do you guys still think it doesn't matter if a Manufacturer publishes deeply discounted prices and sells direct to the consumer at equal to or near the same prices as they sell to you? I still maintain, it matters a great deal.
If I'm understanding this correctly, your friend was going to jab this guy for $10k in mark-up on materials and justifying it by MSRP?? If his labor rate remains the same, and the only thing that changed was the cost of materials (or who purchased them) then I'd have to say good for the 24 year old client for not getting abused and taken advantage of by your friend. That just seems a bit unethical in my opinion. If his price was 3 times higher on materials, and he lost 10k because of that, I'd be willing to bet that he still made a more than fair profit on a job that large. And obviously I would be correct.... he did say that he was still doing the job.

Last edited by Chris J; 08-07-2014 at 02:36 AM.
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  #9  
Old 08-07-2014, 02:37 AM
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INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting is offline
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Hey Chris.... Not everyone wants to vacation at the same location, at the same home, each winter.... Just sayin'. There is a great big world out there to see and experience and something to be said for spending vacation budgets on renting fabulous locations that even the great Chris J. could not afford to own and maintain!

I will respond to the other stuff later. Time to sleep
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INTEGRA ~ Bespoke Lighting Systems ®
JSLDesign Inc.


www.integralighting.com

www.facebook.com/INTEGRA.Lighting

Affiliations: IESNA, IALD, IDA, AOLP, LO, MBA
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  #10  
Old 08-07-2014, 02:50 AM
Chris J Chris J is offline
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Touché Mr. Solecki. Get some rest but don't bother responding to "the other stuff". Your opinion rarely has any interest to me, so you might as well not waste your energy. I provide my opinion with the understanding that it's just that.... my opinion. Doesn't mean it's right or wrong, but it is interesting that out of the entire post, you picked that last sentence/comment to offer a reply to. Very well then, I'll purchase the mobile home next to your house instead and bug the crap out of you a couple times per year. I've always wanted to visit Cana_duh. I've been pretty much everywhere else.

Sweet dreams.

Last edited by Chris J; 08-07-2014 at 02:56 AM.
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