Announcing thepurchase of Visual Comfort and a commercial partnership with Generation Brands,AEA CEO Andy Singer will be present when Visual Comfort Group unveils more than350 new designs during the Light ovation event, which will begin in January,according to an announcement made today by AEA Investors' mid-market privateequity team. According to the Singers, centering the business on the VisualComfort brand will enhance brand recognition among consumers and make it simplerfor designers to clinch sales with their clients.
Although bothbusinesses have become well-known in the design world, there has always beensome ambiguity regarding the link between Circa and Visual Comfort in a fieldthat is already highly fragmented. The Singers contend that with the launch ofa new site in their region, their retail shoppers will receive even moresecondary shine since the entire firm is now concentrated on the Visual Comfortbrand. Visual Comfort speculated that Gale had established a modest butsuccessful network of Circa Lighting showrooms that focused on selling. On Feb.
7, Moody's InvestorsService reported that a deal had been reached for AEA Investors LP to purchaseVisual Comfort%26 Co. from the company that had purchased Generation Brands theprevious year. The Singers refute any claims that this decision will causeVisual Comfort to lose its brand's appeal and emphasize that both businesseshave always emphasized, but never been exclusively devoted to, commerce.Although some difficult conversations may need to be had in order to doubleyour retail space and triple your earnings, Singers claims that ultimately therising tide of the Visual Comfort brand will raise all ships. A mid-marketprivate equity firm called Seidler Equity Partners is committed to workingalongside company managers and owners to build market-leading businesses.
The second subject tobe discussed after the acquisition was announced was how Visual Comfort willfit into the Generation Brands framework. Visual Comfort is an award-winninglighting company with a loyal following among interior designers and lightingshops. The rumored acquisition of Visual Comfort by Generation Brands hasgenerated a lot of interest in the domestic lighting sector. In actuality, thespark to alter the brand was reignited by a somewhat contentious argument withthe proprietor of a lighting business. There has been some misunderstandingover whether Circa is a manufacturer, a retailer, or both (it is a retailer)and whether Visual Comfort is exclusive to the retailer (it is not) in morethan one interaction with a designer, even among regular customers of the twocompanies.
Additionally, thecompany's lighting partners at Generations Brands declared the Visual ComfortGroup as its new corporate name.
Gale and Andy Singer,two powerful siblings in the lighting industry, enlisted the help of amarketing expert to examine their two companies twelve years ago. Andy's VisualComfort had established itself as a leading supplier of lighting to both storesand the design community. Gale had, in the meantime, established a modest buteffective network of four Circa Lighting showrooms that were experts inmarketing, you guessed it, Visual Comfort.
The consultant'ssuggestion was straightforward: Combine the two companies under one name. TheSingers carefully reviewed his list of advantages and disadvantages beforerejecting it. Andy says to Business of Home, "It was an interestingconcept. However, we decided against doing it at the moment.
Many things havechanged since then. The Singers combined their two companies under an onecorporate banner in 2014 thanks to a private equity arrangement. Tech Lighting,Generation Lighting, and Monte Carlo are now part of the same corporation accordingto a 2017 agreement that combined them with the Generation family of lightingbrands. Circa has grown to include 36 showrooms in the interim. Even VisualComfort has expanded.
The Singers havechanged their minds and now wish to come together after more than ten years andconsidering the same issue in a different context. The Circa Lighting brandwill gradually disappear over the course of the following year, and all of itsshowrooms will be renamed "Visual Comfort." The two businesses willalso consolidate their online presences in January 2023 to formvisualcomfort.com, which will offer both direct and wholesale e-commerce.
This choice has beencarefully considered, and in light of the current state of the world and thechance to share a lesson that everyone can benefit from, Andy claims that it isa wise one. When we focus all of our energy and financial resources on onebrand, there are many advantages for the organization.
It's just of odd thatthe Singers didn't choose this path earlier. Although both businesses havebecome well-known in the design sector, there has always been some uncertaintyabout the relationship between Circa and Visual Comfort in a market that isalready disorganized. I've heard confusion about Circa being a manufacturer,retailer, or both in more than one chat with a designer—even among the twobusinesses' loyal customers—as well as whether Visual Comfort is only availableto the trade (it is not).
It's unclear what Galeis purchasing—"Am I purchasing Visual Comfort or Circa?" she asks."Everything we've sold at Circa has come in a Visual Comfort package forthe past 26 years." Simply "clearing things up" is a majorjustification for this action, according to Andy.
The choice to combineunder one name reflects an uniquely modern reality: It's challenging toproperly advertise two brands—let alone five—in this day and age. Therelationship between the two companies could have always used someclarification.
The Singer family oncecompared their expanding empire to the Italian corporation Luxottica Group,which produces a fifth of the world's eyeglasses. There, the manufacturingpower is provided by the relatively unnoticed brand Luxottica, while brandslike Ray-Ban and Persol raise customer awareness and retail giants likeSunglass Hut and Pearle Vision close sales (Luxottica owns them all). Accordingto the Singers, Circa Lighting would have a direct line to clients while VisualComfort would work behind the scenes. The situation changed, but it worked.
In order to marketVisual Comfort, Circa, Monte Carlo, Tech Lighting, and Generation Lighting,Andy explains, "it was a different tale when we ended up integrating ourcompany with the Generation brands. We made what was there simpler, but thereare still five brands, which is a lot in the world of social media and searchnowadays.
Gale continues,"When we could rally behind one name, one brand, and push, why put ourmarketing effort behind all these other brands?"
For the Singers, themerger makes total sense. For their clients, does it make sense? Thepartnership between Visual Comfort and Circa has always been fraught withtension because Circa is essentially a rival to the many lighting showroomsthat carry Visual Comfort. Many of Circa's largest customers have sharplyquestioned: "Wait a minute, now you're starting your own retail businessdown the block?" when the company has entered new markets.
The Singers admit thatthere have occasionally been "upset" first conversations over theyears, but they assert that Circa's presence in a market does not drivecustomers away from nearby showrooms. On the contrary, regional players wind upmoving more Visual Comfort rather than less as a result of it. Everywhere we opena store, everyone else who purchases from us ultimately makes larger purchases,said Andy. "Circa awakens the market and generates all this demand—it hasworked in every single place we've established a store," the store ownersaid.
Will that reasoningstill be valid if the store's name is Visual Comfort rather than Circa? Yes,even more so, say The Singers. In reality, the idea to rename was reignited bya somewhat tense meeting with the proprietor of a lighting retailer.
"We were gettingready to open a gallery in a place in Connecticut, and we had one of ourbiggest customers about 10 miles away who heard that Circa was coming totown," recalls Andy. Andy then had the same "I know you're upset, butI promise, your sales will increase" conversation he'd had in many marketsbefore. "The client told me, 'I get it. The issue is that you aren'tbuilding a Visual Comfort store, which is the brand I represent. How am Ibenefiting from this if you're putting in a Circa store when I don't sell Circalighting? It served as a reminder that they sell Visual Comfort as a brand.