As new industries take flight, they’re often looking at ways to increase their marketing. And one of the ways is by opening up a retail venue where customers can familiarize themselves with their offerings. Think of Apple’s success with opening retail stores. Solar increasingly is ready to make that jump, and Stellar Solar is among companies leading the way.
Stellar Solar will hold a grand opening for its new retail store in San Diego on Oct.26. At the grand opening, Stellar will give away a solar panel desk and offer test drives of a Nissan Leaf and a Mini-E.
“We’ve been open; we had a soft opening six to eight weeks ago, so we’ve been open for a little while,” said Stellar Solar Vice President of Sales Michael Powers. “It’s working exactly the way we hoped it would work.”
The company opened the store at a crucial growth period for the residential and commercial solar installation industry.
“It’s always been done at the customer’s home. As long a volume was low, it was manageable. Now solar’s become a lot more affordable for a larger number of customers,” Powers said.
With increased interest, it’s harder to offer in-home solar assessments and education.
“They can now come here and talk with us and find out what the solutions are,” Powers said. “We found there’s a really strong educational component to this. With photovoltaics, most people looking into investing in this are starting from scratch.”
Stellar Solar, generally has a 20 to 30 minute conversation with each potential residential customer explaining net-metering, payback, financing and a whole range of things before they can discuss specific options for homeowners, according to Powers.
The company’s also holding workshops to explain solar to potential customers around the San Diego area. “This is another venue where people can [learn about solar]…and see a physical solar electric panel. A lot of people have heard about them, but haven’t seen them, its lets them see face-to-face what it looks like,” Powers said.
Among the options Stellar is offering homeowners is a lease-to-own or deferred ownership program offered through SunPower and Citibank.
“They have an option to buy in year six [at a reduced price]. It’s in the range of 40 cents on the dollar,” Powers said.
Stellar also located the facility across the street from San Diego Gas & Electric’s new Energy Innovation Center, where the utility can train people about energy efficiency in up to three classes per week.
“Our goal is to piggyback on that. A lot of commercial customers coming into the center are also looking at putting solar on their business or their homes,” Powers said.