Jeff Goldstein
This was a note sent to the owner of a major domestic lighting component supplier:
Anything you can do to help promote or develop more made in USA type product would be great. I’m a bit concerned and perplexed as to the state of our industry right now and in the future. I see the role of electrical wholesalers losing some value to the market as more Chinese companies are stocking lighting products in the USA and selling them to whoever will send a wire transfer, be it OEM, distributor, ESCO, end user, car dealers, hotels, whoever…

I have seen sales people coming in our door with no lighting background representing off-shore lighting suppliers with prices so low to anyone, that there is no room to compete with similar products at any level of the supply chain. This is mostly flat panels, LED tubes and vapor-tights and wall packs. I have seen an LED vapor-tight completely wired, UL listed and DLC listed for under $40. We can’t possibly buy domestic housings and parts and build it for that. I have more emails from China than I know what to with. 2×2 flat panels for under $30!

I can’t understand the mentality of the marketplace. Years ago, no one wanted a fluorescent fixture with a no-name ballast. Had to be no less than 2nd tier manufacturer like Robertson or Keystone. Many specs came in for Universal or Advance only. Now, no one seems to care. The warranties are only allegedly covering parts replacement. What happened? When fluorescent fixture ballasts failed, we would get calls that the planet has stopped spinning and the world as we know it will cease to exist if their fixture isn’t repaired with full labor allowance immediately.

Now the market thinks LED will last forever, and cannot possibly fail. They can and they will. Then what. All of a sudden the supporters of the Chinese factories will find out that they are left with non-working fixtures and only hope they can get a replacement fixture or part and replace it themselves or bear the labor. I can’t imagine telling our customers that ‘sorry, read our warranty, we’ll send you new drivers, you have to pay to put it in. We’ll see how that goes over and if our invoice for the fixtures was not yet paid, will it ever be? Will the market allow the small to mid-size domestic manufacturers to survive all this, or will they make their purchasing decisions solely on price? This will put many of the USA companies who can supply good product and service out of business, and our country will be left with whatever the Chinese are coming up with and be forced to deal with useless warranties and ‘just good enough’ product.

Now I see companies offering 10 year warranties. What are they going to replace the failed part with in 9 years? It’s not likely they will have the parts available. Then they give the customer 25th generation parts and they don’t match the 2nd generation that was installed 9 years prior. Is it just me or is no one paying attention?

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  1. Jeff,

    I share your concerns about the quick buck, short sighted nature of our business. I work on the Distribution side of the market and see the same challenges that you do and I see them daily. I don’t know that there is anything that can be done to stop this market degression, not until end users start to feel the pain of poor quality choices. It’s just too hard for a marginally trained distributor to equip a poorly trained contractor to justify with an end user that is completely unprepared to differentiate between a good LED and an adequate LED. or maybe inadequate LED.

    However in answer to your question regarding the need for replacement product to repair the inevitable failures that will be coming; Universal has introduced our Quikcross web app to help distributors and contractors select replacement drivers for their LED fixtures. Just answer 4 simple questions and we will provide a selection of drivers that will do the trick.

    We might not be able to make them buy quality in the first place but we can give them a chance to do it on the back side!

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