CHATSWORTH, CA— What businesses based in the U.S. do within the country’s borders and how their operations affect jobs, commercial traditions and community life all generate more interest among consumers today, but the flip side is how labor, history and the neighborhood affect the development of American companies, such as Lamps Plus.
Sometimes, the relationship between a business and its locality plays a significant role in how the enterprise develops, which has been the case of Lamps Plus in its metro Los Angeles neighborhood.
Begun as a manufacturing business, Dennis Swanson, Lamps Plus founder and CEO, told HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®, the company eventually moved into retail until emerging as an omnichannel purveyor of lighting, furniture and other home furnishings. In fact, Lamps Plus converted its original manufacturing operation into its first store.
“We opened our first store in the North Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1976,” Swanson said. “We started with a lamp manufacturing business and realized it made financial sense to also open a storefront. The San Fernando Valley was growing with new affordable housing developments and residents needed lighting for their new homes, so timing was good for us.”
The company today is a multifaceted business with a focus on omnichannel retailing, sourcing widely and serving customers across the U.S. well beyond the vicinity of its 39 stores. Still, Lamps Plus has been and continues to be heavily influenced by the metro in which it was founded. Indeed, Lamps Plus has been able to rely on the vicinity as a growth resource.
“Customers were abundant in our first store area in the early days,” Swanson noted. “The population was rapidly growing and there was easy access to our location throughout Los Angeles through freeways, so it brought customers to our stores to solve their lighting needs. We also had easy access to supplies for manufacturing.”
As it evolved, Lamps Plus needed more skilled retail employees, tech and crafts people to help it evolve and distinguish itself.
“Los Angeles has always attracted a population that includes a skilled workforce so that was an advantage to hiring and training great salespeople in stores. When we began, we had access to a young workforce that would stay and grow with us as we expanded to more stores and eventually online. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to maintain a high degree of employee loyalty. We’re always focused on training and motivating our labor force,” Swanson said.
As the company grew and developed new operations, Lamps Plus continued to focus on employees as a key factor, ultimately, in customer satisfaction.
“We’ve always had the mission of offering high-quality on-trend designs at the best prices to help customers solve their lighting needs,” Swanson said. “While your mission may remain the same, the way you go about accomplishing it changes. We’ve had to grow and change our business as shopping methods and habits, customer tastes and design styles have evolved. Those principles have been around since we started the company, and they’ve always resulted in benefits for an experienced and invested workforce.”
Over time, Lamps Plus has emphasized value in the context of providing a range of trending and classic styles for consumers who have become more demanding when it comes to fashion for their homes.
“Los Angeles is a world class hub for design and entertainment, so it is definitely an advantage to operate a design-centric company to access creative talent,” Swanson said. “The location of our headquarters is an advantage when we explore new categories of products and services. The tech talent in the area is first class and has really helped our in-house web development build, maintain and expand our website.”
Several years ago, Lamps Plus began to work on a program to provide its shoppers with products customized to their needs, including Color Plus, which provides a range of items shoppers can match to their specific color requirements. As it rolled out the customization program, Lamps Plus launched a web tool for desktop and mobile devices that lets consumers upload images to a photo editor function and create a personalized lamp shade or pillow. To arrange the product, consumers can crop and filter their images, and add text treatments, borders and other graphic elements. Artisans print and hand assemble each custom product in the company’s headquarters.
“We saw a business opportunity to provide our customers the ability to customize products with their choice of colors, allowing them to match colors and designs to rooms in their homes,” Swanson said. “This was partly driven by feedback from customers who requested certain colors and partly driven by the opportunity we saw to leverage and expand our existing manufacturing. We’ve developed customization into the colors of lamp bases, lamp shade designs and our custom photo business. All of our customization products are assembled in California.”
The company assembled both technology and talent to make the customization program work.
“One of the great strengths of our company is the ability to quickly pivot to take on new projects. We had the initial customization program up and running in short order and have been adding to it and refining it. The program relies on cutting edge technology and skilled employees, both of which we have at our company and within our region,” he said.
As it advances in a channel where consumers are more used to getting exactly what they want, Lamps Plus plans to leverage the capabilities it has assembled in its California facilities to better satisfy shoppers.
“We are constantly looking for new types of products to add to our customization program. Within the last few years, we added the ability to upload personal photos to custom print onto a handmade pillow or lamp shade. It’s satisfying to be able to bring opportunities like that to our local manufacturing facility and offer them to customers. We look at it as a way of not only growing our business but also as a way of getting the most out of our local resources, making them as productive and efficient as possible.” Swanson said.