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Jim Lucy2012 770 5eb59eee020df

Over the Next Hill

May 5, 2020
Seeing the next big product innovation or market-changing trend is tough without the right resources. EW has always been here to help.

wish I got out hiking more. Earlier this year, I hiked up Camelback Mountain in Phoenix with one of my sons, and it sure was nice to hit the trails again.

Ever since those first day hikes in  my Boy Scout days more than 50 years, I always enjoyed the anticipation of the view past the tree line when you finished off the climb up that last hill. The view from the top of the mountain is always worth all the hard work on the climb up.

Electrical Wholesaling  has always tried to provide a preview of new sales opportunities and game-changing industry trends “just over that next hill,” so you can get an early glimpse of the potential of a new product or the impact of an emerging industry trend.

In this month’s issue, Associate Editor Ellie Coggins does a great job in presenting the potential future sales opportunities in LiFi, an intriguing new communications technology that transmits data over light waves at amazingly fast speeds. Ellie interviewed some of the leading LiFi experts in the lighting industry to get their thoughts on this fascinating technology and the role distributors and reps may have in selling it. Be sure to read her cover story, “Insight on Light Fidelity,” on page 12.

Ellie’s article reminded me of some of the other major new product developments EW has covered over the past 40 years. The lighting industry has always seemed to be in a perpetual state of innovation and the advancement in LiFi technology is just the latest change. Over the past few decades, we saw ever-more efficient fluorescent lamps shrink in diameter from T12 to T8 and then to T5 before getting being overwhelmed by even more efficient LED lighting.  EW covered each step down the trail toward increasing efficiency.

We used barrels of ink on the move from electromagnetic to electronic ballasts, and on the steady march in lighting controls from wired to wireless controls, and to the latest in app-based lighting control.

The lighting industry  isn’t the only product niche that’s been transformed by new product development. The hand tool and power tool markets have launched a steady stream of battery-powered, contractor-friendly tools that help installers do their electrical installations faster and more safely.

Every once in a while, EW’s editors have run across a product launch that falls a little flat.  Back in the early 1990s, I  remember a big rollout by one of the major distribution equipment companies for a nonmetallic residential load center that didn’t quite pan out.

This load center had some interesting wire channels to keep branch circuit wiring organized. But the proud product manager was more enthused about what he saw as the revolutionary design features of the enclosure.  Because of its nonmetallic construction, he thought homeowners might think the load center wouldn’t look so bad in prominent  and easily accessible locations in the house, instead of their traditional locations in the basement or garage. He even suggested homeowners could wallpaper it.

Unfortunately for this product manager, the market reception for this heavily promoted product was underwhelming, and it didn’t last long.

Perhaps the company didn’t do enough market research on consumer acceptance of such a radically new product; maybe the pricing was way off. For some reason, this manufacturer’s view of the market was  obscured.  It’s all about getting as much early information as possible about that view over the next hill.      

About the Author

Jim Lucy | Editor-in-Chief of Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing

Jim Lucy has been wandering through the electrical market for more than 40 years, most of the time as an editor for Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing newsletter, and as a contributing writer for EC&M magazine During that time he and the editorial team for the publications have won numerous national awards for their coverage of the electrical business. He showed an early interest in electricity, when as a youth he had an idea for a hot dog cooker. Unfortunately, the first crude prototype malfunctioned and the arc nearly blew him out of his parents' basement.

Before becoming an editor for Electrical Wholesaling  and Electrical Marketing, he earned a BA degree in journalism and a MA in communications from Glassboro State College, Glassboro, NJ., which is formerly best known as the site of the 1967 summit meeting between President Lyndon Johnson and Russian Premier Aleksei Nikolayevich Kosygin, and now best known as the New Jersey state college that changed its name in 1992 to Rowan University because of a generous $100 million donation by N.J. zillionaire industrialist Henry Rowan. Jim is a Brooklyn-born Jersey Guy happily transplanted with his wife and three sons in the fertile plains of Kansas for the past 30 years. 

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