Deck lighting is a largely untapped market for many of the lumber dealers I speak with. While most dealers are selling decking of some sort, they aren’t yet taking advantage of the high margins available on deck lighting accessories.
The deck lighting category has exploded in the past 10 years. With the advent of DC power and the technology behind some of the new lighting systems, decking retailers are now able to realize higher margins on some relatively low-cost lighting accessories.
Like most anything in our industry, the best way to make money selling a product is to know everything you can about the product and the category. Education is key. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, customers are going to pick up on that and move on. Like most any product category these days, the internet has made a lot of people think they’re experts. But in reality, a good dealer knows far more about the products that they sell than any customer who reads a few product descriptions online.
Even though in most states you need to be an electrician to install lighting, you should still have a basic understanding of the difference between AC and DC power and the opportunities for new lighting options that DC power has brought us. For example, the most frequent complaint you may hear from a homeowner who just purchased lights is that “my lights won’t light up.” The main reason for this is that they have the polarity reversed. Today’s light emitting diodes perform the best using DC power because it stays on constantly. The old AC power went back and forth in both directions. As a result, the lights on AC power actually blinked at a hertz rate of 60, or 60 times per second. Because that light turned off and on 60 times per second, the lights tended to burn out fairly quickly. A DC power supply flows through in one direction and keeps the light constantly illuminated and is going to last a lot longer.
Today’s LED lights use 10 times less electricity than older, incandescent bulbs. Today, a typical power supply for a deck project is 30 to 60 watts. At that wattage, we don’t encounter near the risk of fire or electrocution we’ve had in the past.
Here in Minnesota, you still need to be a licensed electrician to install the DC systems, unless they’re a plug-and-play system that just plugs in together like Christmas lights.
For instance, even manufacturers who sell LED products will teach you that their lights can be swapped out for older incandescent light bulbs. I recommend always having a stock of bulbs on hand. We sell them on our website at thedeckstoreonline.com. It’s really an inexpensive way to convert a customer. At the same time as a bulb swap out, they’ll also want to update their power supply.
The single most effective way that I’ve found to sell more lighting for decks is by giving the wiring away. When a customer comes in for a decking project, I suggest throwing in the wire free as long as they agree to feed the wire through their railing. Most of the deck railing systems that we’re currently selling are hollow aluminum or a hollow composite, and that’s the perfect raceway to run the wiring from post to post
Wire that’s fed through the railing product is going to keep concealed from the weather and from animals. At The Deck Store, we run the wire through the top rail, and leave a 12″ tail sticking out of each one. Then we can go back later and add the lighting. If the customer decides not to add the lighting at that time, we can leave the wires in there. The wiring is a really inexpensive upgrade. Once the wire is there, you’ve got your foot in the door to sell that customer lights in the future. Also, deck lights are a category that is continually being upgraded with new options. Once you’ve already placed wire for your customers, you’ll have a captive audience going forward and they’ll typically come back for new types of lighting.
New LED systems have timers, remote controls, and can change colors. These latest light accessories are in high demand and are relatively inexpensive, so you’ll get good margins on them. Deck lighting doesn’t deserve the typical commodity margin. You won’t regret becoming the go-to source for your customers’ deck lighting needs because lights are always changing.