Light Industry

Having conquered the consumer market, a modern-lighting retailer sets its sights on design professionals.

It’s hard to imagine that high design was anything less than readily available just eight years ago. Today, after all, a shopping trip in Atlanta, Toronto, Amsterdam, or Tokyo turns up largely the same products: a Marcel Wanders vase, a Philippe Starck chair, a Naoto Fukasawa lamp. This is a good thing, argues Jeff Zwelling, who cofounded YLighting in 2001 with Dave Feldman because he couldn’t get his hands on the fixtures he wanted—at least not without special orders and long waits. “We thought the key was to get the product to people quickly, without hassle,” he says. “That was, across the entire design industry, sort of a novel idea.” But times have changed, and now that YLighting has helped get sought-after lights into the hands of the average person—it’s the largest retailer of modern lighting in the United States­—the company is looking to better serve design professionals.

“The relationship we have with the architecture community is quite interesting,” Zwelling says. “For instance, Gensler is the second largest visitor to the site, as a domain, after ourselves. Now, Gensler is not a major customer of ours, but the fact that their domain shows up as number two tells you that there are a lot of people using YLighting as a reference tool.” Designers are also using the company’s highly curated offerings to communicate with clients. “Architects will send a client to our site and say, ‘Pick anything from this page, because anything will work,’” Feldman explains.

Though YLighting will begin to offer some exclusive products to designers this year, its focus will continue to be exceptional service. Zwelling is working on a trade-specific site with fewer ads and helpful features like customers’ order histories; some nifty gadgetry is also in the works. And the company has already appointed an in-house lighting consultant dedicated to the trade. YLighting is marking the shift by attending the International Contemporary Furniture Fair this May for the first time. “ICFF represents one of the most important opportunities for the design community to get together and show their stuff,” Zwelling says. “I think there’s a part of us that considers it somewhat of a corporate responsibility.”

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