How to market my new lamp designs

Thank you all for the advice so far.
I would really like to sell it through a chain like Target, but I’m afraid that it will not appeal to the masses or they might not afford it. My designs are functional art and are very unique. I see them as high-end limited production items, so I am targeting interior designers, architects, or retailers like
I’ve heard of ICFF.

Keep in mind if you are selling these lamps in a retail situation nearly all stores will want UL certification on the lamps which can run up to $10,000 each. Make sure your plan includes covering these costs.

Thank you cdaisy, I didn’t even think about UL certification.

Your clients will ask you for the UL cert. if they need it. If you are doing one-offs or very limited runs, you can forget about it. Your competition isn’t doing it either in that case. Having said that, you should pop down to the local university library and read the UL norms for lighting. Here’s a list:

UL1598 is a good starting place. You can grow from there. Just be aware of what’s dangerous and what’s not.

Also, to find clients, you might want to check out I used to troll their message board. They might have more information that is useful to you, or at least some interesting links.

It doesn’t sound like something you’re seriously considering, but keep in mind that getting into a major chain Target is a lot harder than it sounds (and it doesn’t exactly sound easy). They are not interested in helping the little guy get a big start. You’ll need a track record of delivering on a large scale, and you most likely won’t get an appointment without a sales rep who already has a relationship with the buyer. Not to mention you’ll need to buy a few containers worth of lamps, which you’ll need to pay for when they ship, while you’ll be on 60 day terms with Target. They’ll want EDI ordering systems, a dedicated CS person, etc. You’ll have to do 3rd party certification for things like CPSIA. Factory certification. All kinds of stuff that nobody thinks of. The vendor manual for these big retail chains is hundreds of pages.

Start small. Make sure the product actually sells, then ramp up. Even going to a little show like ICFF with a 10x10 booth will cost $10k - $20k, not counting the cost of the product to fill it.

Your first decision should be whether you want to be a manufacturer. Your second should be whether you want to focus on wholesaling or selling direct. And keep in mind that even little stores are going to want to put stuff on consignment, and still take 30 days to pay.

I am serious about this. I’m currently doing my research to find out what is the best option for me with the resources that I have. One thing that is sure is that I am starting small. It could start by selling directly to local shops, and use it as a way to test the products as well. But whether I start small or not, the UL certification alone is going to cost me a lot.
It looks like step one is to figure out exactly the industry standards and approximately how much it will cost me in order to be compliant for each product.
I don’t want to be a manufacturer, between wholesaling and selling direct I’ll have to see which one more cost effective.
Mr. 914, I took a peek at and it is very resourceful. Thank you

Thank you all for the great information and advice

If you don’t want to manufacturer, I highly suggest booking a ticket to see the Hong Kong lighting show. Everyone, including many high-end brands, are manufacturing over there. It’s also a great place to get inspiration.

Also pick up a copy of CENS lighting. It’s filled with suppliers in China:

You don’t necessarily need your own UL Listing. If you can find a local “mom-n-pop” lighting store/shop that refurbs or fixes old light fixtures or does custom light fixtures, they may have their own UL Listing and can list your fixtures at a cost. You or your company will not be the manufacturer in this case. I’m being charged $35 per fixture, but my fixtures are UL 1598 test exempt so they are fairly easy and straightforward to check. If the fixtures are not test exempt, having someone else list them may be more difficult but not impossible. How you approach this issue of UL should be part of your business plan.

Showing at ICFF will probably not get your product in Target, but it is definitely possible to do work with smaller stores like Anthropologie, MOMA, Neiman Marcus, W Hotels, boutique design stores, lighting stores, etc… The great thing about ICFF is getting free press (newspapers, magazines, blogs, AND CORE77!) if your product is unique and stands out. Free press helps A LOT to get the ball rolling.

If you want to have your fixtures spec’d by architects, interior designers, or lighting designers, the trade shows I would recommend would be Hospitality Design (Las Vegas) and Lightfair, in that order. I would not do Lightfair your first year, but definitely visit it to get familiar with your industry. If you go the spec route, you should consider getting lighting reps to service the designers in their particular area/region. Also, research the key players in lighting stores like Lightology in Chicago, Lee’s Lighting Studio in nyc, Plug in LA, Lunatika in Miami, YLighting (online), etc… Architects and designers visit (bring their clients) these lighting stores to get up close to the fixtures they are interested in using. Lighting specifiers often work closely with their local lighting stores too. But if you’re planning on starting small (which I totally recommend), definitely work the smaller boutique design shops as many times they like working with smaller and especially local “up-and-comers” of what is new/fresh, which also means the big guys pay attention to the collection of these smaller shops for consideration into their own stores.

Finally, if you do not want to be a manufacturer, yes go to that Hong Kong show, as well as the Canton Fair (held a couple times a year). Here’s 2 companies in China that can help you:
Target International:
Lightart International:

Where are you located?

I am located in Maryland.

Eddison: Wow, now I’m learning new things!

the main thing you will need is an unbelievable amount of hard work and persistence. I am doing the same thing right now with a much simpler product and it is ridiculous how many little snags and barriers that you didn’t even think of will bring everything to a halt. you need to go into this with the full expectation that it will be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life.

i would plan for 6 months straight of 12-16 hour days. i’m not even exaggerating.

However, the confidence, experience, connections, and sense of accomplishment you will gain are priceless and well worth it. best of luck!

This book might of good use to the both of you.

jehan: what’s simpler than a light fixture?

A marijuana themed ashtray:

but i’m making them myself, basically building my own factory by hand, plus they need to get out as soon as possible before the vote on Proposition 19 in November, so it’s been a real journey

6 months of 16 hour days for a marijuana themed ashtray?
It would be interesting to hear what took all that time.

Producing yourself is of course the big difference since you suddenly also have to hunt down distribution.

Me and my partners are right now in the development of a line of lighting which we showed at ICFF this year. Press definitely helps and we are now in the process of getting it picked up. Also interior designers and architects have a chance to see your piece and express interest. It shows the potential manufacturer that there is a basis for the product.
Producing ourselves was not really interesting for us and we decided on royalty instead.

What I can share is that having the design resolved before the show is key. No manufacturer\distributor will find it interesting if he gets the feeling that there has to be a lot more more down the line.
Also having a strong presentation is important. For example have a press release and a press image pack ready.

Good luck!

what’s simpler than a light fixture?

I was thinking more along the lines of a …

or a …

jehan: You are doing the lord’s work my friend!

nah, i havent spent that long yet, but i’m not ruling it out. It’s mostly just sorting out all the tiny details of the business and promotional side of things, and also the mass production system, having never done any of it before. it would be easy to turn out a few ashtrays with traditional mold making techniques, but to get the speed and ease of production that i will need to make this viable at a consumer price point, i have had to design a 3 part modular system that will make a bunch at once, while letting air escape and getting the concrete into all the little crevices while preventing flashing and registration problems, all at the very loose tolerances required by something as thick, abrasive, and sticky as concrete.

I also thought it would be easy when i started out, as it is a very simple idea and process, but again, it’s the details.

also i am a student and lowish on the funds so hiring specialists and manufacturers is not an option and its all done with the cheapest materials (plywood, HDPE, and polyurethane rubber)

I’ve learned that design is by far the easiest part of the process

jehan: that’s really cool. I’d love to see this in a thread under the projects section. What is the ashtray made out of? It looks like concrete…

Yea, it’s made out of hemp-reinforced concrete, I cast them myself. check out my web page I’ve posted up some videos of both the political theory behind the business and how I make them.

‘i would plan for 6 months straight of 12-16 hour days. i’m not even exaggerating’

what he said…