Feature, Retail

Six challenges that retail lighting will face in 2015

H&M kicked in the door to the Autralian market last year with an LED-lit store in Melbourne. Until we find a way to prove it, we won't know exactly how much the lighting scheme, devised by DPA Lighting Consultants, will contribute to the store's sales

Retail lighting is different from lighting for other applications. It has to support sales, it has to be economical for short-lease buildings and it has to be ‘on brand’. That means retail lighters face their very own challenges. Here are the top six items that every retail lighting professional should have on their list this year.


1. Navigating a non-standardised market

The LED market is still a bit of a colourful bazaar; until proper standards have been set, even seasoned end users will be wondering if they’re getting the best deal and the most appropriate specs. In the UK, the Lighting Industry Association has launched an independent verification programme for LED products, but there is also a need for a large-scale approach. ‘At the moment we have US regulations for LEDs. When will we see European-wide standards?’ asked Michael Parkin, senior engineering standards manager of Lloyds Banking Group, at Lux’s recent retail forum.


2. Dealing with risk

There is always a certain risk factor involved when you invest in new technology, but never more so than in a market without clear standards. Until challenge one is completed and LEDs are properly labelled, we might just have to embrace that risk. As Faye Robinson, associate of lighting design practice Troup Bywaters & Anders, points out:  ‘LEDs are an innovation and the warranties are based on extrapolation, which is a barrier because many don’t want to take the risk. Yet we all happily go out and buy iPhones.’


3. Making the ‘LED helps sales’ pitch

It’s easy enough to prove the environmental benefits of an LED upgrade, but sadly that’s not always enough to persuade the finance department to approve the upfront expenses associated with a new lighting scheme. Imagine how much easier it would be if you could prove the correlation between better lighting and increased sales! Unfortunately it’s not that easy to separate the lighting from the myriad of other variables that influence people’s shopping decisions. As Simon Waldron, Sainsbury’s electrical engineering manager, told Lux: ‘The controllability of variables is missing. We need a standardised approach to proving the link between lighting and sales which at the moment can’t be applied.’  


4. Combining technology with the right look and feel

Retailers can’t compromise on the look and feel of their shops, and that still presents a challenge with new lighting technology. As Dean Laurent, utilities purchasing manager at Arcadia, points out: ‘The customer comes in for the product, not the lighting. We need our stores to be bright, young and we do not want to see new technology make them duller.’


5. Making the most of a long life

What good is a long warranty to a retailer with a short lease? A long life cycle or warranty on an LED lamp doesn’t always have the same appeal to retail lighters as it would to facility managers at universities or hospitals, and that means the argument for more efficient lighting can be tougher to make.  Andy Francis, property sustainability consultant at B&Q, confirms: ‘Around 90 per cent of our estate is leasehold, typically for less than 10 years. We can’t talk about 20-year life cycle costs.’


6. Relying on long warranties

If lighting manufacturers extrapolate their product lifetime claims from shorter tests, how can we trust it? And will any of them be around to honour their warranties if a product fails in a few years’ time? Lamp makers aren’t unaware of this conundrum. At Lux’s latest retail forum, James Fleet, head of specification at GE Lighting, said: ‘We welcome the warranty debate. Yes there is extrapolation but what we want clients to see is rigour and longevity in how those are calculated.’