Whether it was my recent experience as a judge for the annual Lighting for Tomorrow Awards or by serving as a panelist for an educational session on the Connected Home during last month’s ALA Conference, it’s become clear to me that the industry is comprised of people at all phases of the learning process when it comes to LED fixtures and “smart” control systems.
At the Lighting for Tomorrow competition, there were manufacturers who pushed the LED envelope when it came to brightness and control. Part of the competition’s criteria was for the products to be market-ready in consumer acceptance. Perhaps that is why there weren’t as many aesthetically ground-breaking submissions for the North American audience as I know there are in the international marketplace. It is my observation that European consumers in particular are more comfortable with, let’s call it “avant-garde Contemporary” looks, followed by Scandinavia, Australia, and the U.K. The reason I bring this up is because the very nature of LEDs – their small size and very different capabilities from incandescent – allow designers to truly break new ground by creating lighting fixtures and lamps that may look nothing like what they’ve looked like for the past 100+ years. We – as consumers worldwide – have to get comfortable with lighting fixtures and portable lamps that may look “strange” to us and become accustomed to seeing the effects of light in our surroundings coming from almost invisible fixtures.
At the ALA Conference last month, I spoke with members who were rapidly converting their showrooms into LED experience centers as well as many who were just sticking a toe in the LED lighting waters beyond offering replacement bulbs for retrofit. The learning curve for LED lighting and smart controls is populated with industry professionals who are at various stages of acceptance and practice. The mantra at the ALA Conference was: “Get on board or get left behind.”
Naturally changing out all of your fixtures in your showroom to LED-powered ones is too drastic of a change to do overnight; however, the time is right to begin a gradual conversion and to start educating and preparing your customers for what is coming in the immediate future. Even if you have a highly traditional and conservative base, it is important to introduce these technologies – albeit slowly – to your customers. If you don’t, they will go elsewhere to learn about them. I do not want to see the residential lighting industry lose this potential for a lion’s share of the market to electronics stores and other tech businesses. Trust me, there is no stopping progress, and no turning back.