Case Histories: Retail Lighting
High-Benefit Lighting® Brings Business Results
by William Kirkland, Vice President-Marketing, MagneTek, Inc.
Retailers and center owners and managers throughout the nation are modifying indoor and outdoor lighting to reduce energy costs. This is economically prudent and environmentally correct; however, energy savings are only one factor to be considered with regard to proper lighting. Focusing entirely on energy conservation could actually cost you more in the long run.
What, then, is the proper way to reduce lighting waste? Believe it or not, you start by minimizing the energy issues; real dollars and cents of lighting for the retail environment have relatively little to do with the operating and maintenance costs.
If you ignore energy issues, what do you focus on? Simple. The purpose of lighting! In fact, why do we really care about the specifics of proper illumination? The easiest way to answer is through an extreme example.
Imagine what would occur with poor or nonexistent lighting. People would not stop and admire your store. Those who did would probably not come in because it was dark or dingy looking, didn’t allow them to see what you had to offer, and everything in stock would look unappealing. And, with any luck, those who dared to enter would avoid an accident that could leave you with a costly lawsuit and negative publicity. If you think about the cost associated with these and other issues, you would agree your business would not survive long.
Certainly having no light is unacceptable, but poor or inadequate lighting may be almost as damaging. The retail setting requires a shopper-friendly environment that focuses emphasis on and highlights your products while providing a safe experience. Properties that combine various light sources with functional applications to accomplish these tasks are easy to identify and generally attract more shoppers, increase sales, and boost profits.
Sounds good, right? So how much does this better lighting system cost? Typically, the initial installation of a proper lighting system will cost no more than any conventional system and will even save energy. Retrofitting or enhancing current systems can produce substantial results. Consider the case of Pillowtex Corporation.
The company retrofitted its Dallas showroom by enhancing their product presentation with a combination lighting system utilizing 12-volt, 25-watt fixtures uplighting the glass shelving. Four 25-Watt pin spots were used to light a clear tank of swirling feathers from within, and six PAR 38, 150-Watt spotlights were installed overhead, one each for two mannequins and two tables, and two for a Pillowtex sign.
Nonadjustable dimmers were included in the low-voltage circuits used for the 25-Watt fixtures, resulting in an undetectable 5% light reduction. This reduction extended lamp life by 300%, from 2,000 hours to 6,000 hours.
The system cost less than $3,000 to install and less than $500 per year to operate and maintain. The impact was huge, however, creating dramatic, museum-like effects on the showroom and the pillows on display. According to a Pillowtex spokesperson, “Shortly after we opened the new showroom, we had a dramatic and wholly unanticipated jump in showroom orders. We can attribute this jump totally to the new lighting and the environment which it has created for us.”
The spokesperson said the value of the orders that could be attributed solely to the new lighting was just under $1 million per year. Had the company focused solely on energy factors, it is possible they would have kept the original lighting in the 1,300-square-foot showroom.
Conventional wisdom tells us that fluorescent lighting is typically the most cost-effective way to light most space. Application is paramount to the selection of the light source and key to producing the desirable results. In fact, a multitude of products is available: linear fluorescent, compact fluorescent, incandescent, halogen, low-voltage, and low-wattage high-intensity discharge (HID).
Each light source has its own unique features and benefits. Most lighting designers will utilize a combination of light sources to enhance the color, intensity, and mood of the application. Pillowtex was successful in its lighting upgrade, generating more sales and creating a high-impact and positive image for the showroom and company. The goal was to have lighting designed specifically to achieve their business goals and ensure the design included equipment to minimize energy waste.
Unfortunately, too many store owners and facility managers believe the job is complete when they achieve energy savings, but compromise lighting quality. This approach overlooks the significant bottom-line value that can be achieved by relying on what the National Lighting Bureau calls High-Benefit Lighting®. Not taking advantage of the High-Benefit Lighting approach can result in real waste.
The National Lighting Bureau is a nonprofit educational organization sponsored by lighting system manufacturers, not-for-profit trade and professional organizations, and agencies of the federal government. Its mission is to make more people aware of High-Benefit Lighting. Those who choose to understand and utilize it can achieve profitable results.
At Colonial Park Plaza, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for example, a $51,000 indoor, common-area lighting system retrofit reduced operating and maintenance costs by 55%, saving about $8,400 per year. The new lighting also affected the interior of the center by making it far brighter, cheerier, and more shopper-friendly. As a consequence, largely through word-of-mouth, the number of shoppers increased and led to about $1 million in increased profits to retailers.
This boosted the center owner’s rental income and, because rental income went up and vacancies down, the resale value of the center also increased by an estimated $625,000 per year. The number of slipping/tripping accidents significantly declined and resulted in insurance savings. Based on conventional energy savings-based return on investment (ROI) calculations the lighting retrofit would have taken about six years to pay back. However, considering the aggregate savings and valuation enhancements, payback occurred in less than six days.
If your shop is located in an enclosed or strip center, you probably are paying common-area maintenance (CAM) charges, and should have a voice in how they are spent by the center’s owners or managers. If they are not aware of High-Benefit Lighting, you might want to assist in providing them with information. Don’t forget that lighting systems can also be enhanced significantly outdoors.
Owners of the Fairmont Fair Mall (Camillus, New York) discovered that new HID lighting in the parking lot made the mall far more noticeable at night; reduced vandalism, break-ins, and other “incidents.” This increased goodwill and customer referrals. Overall security costs were reduced without compromising safety (officers could see much better, doing more in less time). Snow plowing was expedited. As a result, a $95,000 lighting system upgrade that would have taken more than 100 years to pay for itself (based on energy savings alone) actually paid for itself in less than 100 days.
No matter what you sell in your store, increased customer traffic is beneficial to both you and the center owner. If you own the center or the free-standing store, you would get a double benefit. Keep in mind the lighting task for your particular products. Jewelry and crystal require high definition and brilliance; soft goods true color and richness. Certain areas may require higher lumen levels because of the target audience (age consideration) or the distance required to view the product. A competent and successful lighting project will utilize a combination of products to accomplish a number of tasks within the same retail space.
High-Benefit Lighting costs no more, generally speaking, but can provide much more than lowered operating and maintenance costs, by providing a shopper-friendly environment that elevates traffic, sales, and profits. Start your quest for High-Benefit Lighting by getting more information. The National Lighting Bureau’s all-time most popular information piece is titled Getting the Most from Your Lighting Dollar.
Do not rely on just anyone to evaluate your existing system and develop a new design, even when you are talking about a low-cost retrofit. Those whom you retain, even if at no cost, need to understand about High-Benefit Lighting, and should have successful experience in terms of similar work they have done for others. Bureau sponsors understand High-Benefit Lighting and, as a consequence, should be your first contact. One of the sponsors–National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions (NCQLP)–tests lighting system designers and awards its highly coveted Lighting Certified (LC) designation only to those who pass a rigorous examination. Manufacturers and others that sponsor the Bureau employ many LC’s.
Do not assume the lighting system you have installed presently is the best you can have. There are many factors to consider including: product presentation, quality of light, and energy. By all means have a qualified professional evaluate your current system, understand your requirements, and make recommendations to help improve your store’s profitability. You are likely to find that High-Benefit Lighting will be one of the best gifts of all…because its value far exceeds its cost, and it’s a gift you give it to yourself.
Editor’s Note: The author is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Lighting Bureau. Mr. Kirkland has spent the last 12 years in the lighting industry, with various assignments in product management, business unit management, national accounts, specifications markets, and sales and marketing. He is the author of numerous articles about lighting, and coauthored Ballasts and the Generation of Lighting, a design guide published by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). Mr. Kirkland is a member of IESNA and also serves on the executive committee of the Energy Cost Savings Council.
Reprinted with permission from Giftware News.