More than 45 retailers from across North America attended GE Lighting’s 3rd annual LED & Energy Efficient Lighting Trends for Retail conference at the lighting company’s global headquarters in East Cleveland, Ohio last week to share best practices, learn about new technologies, and discuss emerging trends that can deliver immediate and sustained environmental and financial gains while enhancing the visual appeal of products.
Over the last decade, retailers have shifted to more efficient light-emitting diode (LED) systems in signage, architectural lighting, refrigerated and frozen display cases, as well as accent and ambient lighting. The newest LED application on the radar screens of retailers of every size— including those operating hundreds or thousands of stores— is parking lot lighting.
As attendees listened to speakers, participated in tours of the GE Lighting Institute, and went behind the scenes to talk with scientists in GE’s reliability labs, a common theme emerged: wherever possible retailers are shifting toward long-lasting, energy-efficient LED systems. For retail facility executives and CFOs, the maintenance cost savings tied to an LED system’s longer life are often just as motivating as the energy cost savings.
“It just makes good sense to switch to LEDs for many applications,” says Amy Laughead-Riese, principal of 37 Volts Light Studio, a former Macy’s lighting designer and conference keynote speaker. “LED lighting significantly reduces energy and maintenance costs while increasing energy efficiency, directly impacting a retailer’s bottom line. At the same time, it allows a retailer to maintain a consistent lighting quality and brand image throughout a store and in multiple store locations.”
Retailers are looking to incorporate LED technology enterprise-wide, from distribution centers to the sales floor. While some retailers gravitate to LED systems for creative, high-end designs, others are switching for practical, energy-saving reasons. For optimal energy savings, retailers have even integrated motion sensors with LEDs that activate when customers approach a display or certain area. Walmart, one of the featured retailers at the conference, has set a goal to use 100-percent LED lighting in all of its 5,366 stores through new construction and retrofitting.
“We began our LED journey with our exterior signage and realized this could be a sustainable, long-term lighting solution. Switching to LEDs was a no brainer,” notes Charles Zimmerman, vp/international design & construction with Walmart. “Now we’re using LEDs in display cases, parking lots, and throughout the store. Now our LED lights are outliving our refrigerated display cases, providing zero maintenance.”
During an awards ceremony at the conference, GE Lighting recognized retailers that support its energy-efficient lighting philosophy. There were two awards presented: LED Retailer of the Year and GE Retailer of the Year.
The criteria for the LED Retailer of the Year award included: outstanding contributions to the LED industry by retrofitting at least 20% or more of their fleet of stores to LED, and LED technology should have visually improved the appearance of their stores in a way that is recognizable by customers.
For the GE Retailer of the Year award the criteria included: outstanding contributions to the lighting industry by using energy-efficient products in 80% of more of their stores; demonstration of innovative lighting techniques that have improved the visual aesthetics of their stores; and demonstrated positive impact on the community.
The Fresh Market took home the LED Retailer of the Year award for incorporating LED PAR38s into 40% of its stores for both accent and general lighting applications. “We are honored to receive this award from GE in regard to our LED efforts,” states Paul Poole, corporate energy manager of The Fresh Market. “We were able to reduce our energy use while still maintaining a very high quality of light to improve the customer experience and the overall aesthetics of our stores.”
Walgreens received GE’s Retailer of the Year award to acknowledge the company’s transition from F28 to F25 linear fluorescent lamps, a strategic move that enabled the company to achieve a 9% energy savings while also extending its re-lamp cycle by 10%. At the end of 2011, Walgreens will have more stores than any GE customer in the world using F25 linear fluorescent lamps.
“We’re pleased to receive this honor from such a long-standing and valued business partner,” says Walgreens divisional vice president of facilities management Tim Schmid. “Together with GE, we’ve made unprecedented use of more efficient lighting systems that also enhance the shopping experience in our stores with a cleaner, brighter look. This is just one example of our overall sustainability commitment aimed at maximizing the use of human, capital and natural resources to positively impact the communities we serve.”