In partnership with Gamma Illumination, Harvard Engineering and Xicato, Lux last month brought together the leading minds in retail lighting design to discuss energy, LEDs, daylighting and the perpetual struggle to sell products while keeping costs down. Here are the highlights

Ray Molony: This year is going to be a challenge for retail. Retailers are going to have to manage costs, and energy is one way to do that. There are very high standards of design. You’ve got LEDs coming in and people are wondering when to jump in. There are so many issues at play that it’s going to be an interesting few years in this sector. What do retailers want from the design and lighting community?

Russell Lipscombe: A lot of retailers are getting approached by manufacturers and are hearing all these things about how fantastic LEDs are, and when we go to design that’s the first thing they say. We’re at the cusp of LED development. We’re at a crossover stage, so we have to be very careful about it.

Roger Sexton: No one will ever specify LEDs in retail just because it’s an LED. You have to look at lighting fundamentals. It hasn’t always been the case, but I see it happening now that LED luminaire manufacturers and module manufacturers are getting to grips with all these fundamentals and making products that are suitable for energy saving.

Lux Retail Forum 02

Simon Thorp, Jin-Yee Lim, Geoff Coffin and David Tilley at the forum

Simon Thorp: It’s really hard work, with the larger retailers, to get them to reduce light levels. If your ambient level drops, then you need less light to make products stand out, but contrast means that on the high street someone’s sitting next to somebody else, so if someone drops their light levels, and someone beside them is at 1,500 lux and they’re a similar retailer, there’s pressure for them to stay up there.

Better briefs

Michael Fern: This year was the first time I’ve had a brief where one of the first sentences was that energy reduction was one of the core drivers. The majority of the briefs that I start with are more about sensory experience, creating uniqueness, understanding what their position is against their competitors.

Lux Retail Forum 01

Iain Trent suggests centres should have a shopfront lighting guide

Miles Pinniger: The question is how do we reduce our energy use in line with the Carbon Reduction Commitment? Any retailer will never want you to reduce their lighting levels. Contrast management is a far more effective tool. But as far as supermarkets are concerned it’s only regulation in the form of the Building Regulations or something similar that will make them reduce their lighting levels. What you need is the right partnership between the controls and the light source. If you just think about the energy benefits you get from moving into LEDs, in practice they aren’t really going to offer big efficiency improvements. But if you then introduce dynamic controls on top of LEDs, you’re talking about energy savings of 80 and 90 per cent.

Geoff Coffin: Homebase have done that. They’re spending money on controls, a system that controls the lights, the heating, the AC, everything, and it’s controlled centrally.

Lux Retail Forum 03

Maida Hot says the lighting consultant must educate the client

Iain Trent: With new shopping centres, you should have a shopfront design guide, and that should be about controlling light levels at the front of the shop, it should be telling retailers that lights need to be switched off. For new shopping centres, there should be no excuses for designers. They should be able to say ‘What’s the developer’s fit-out guide saying? What does the shopfront guide say?’ The key thing should be that shops switch their lights out after a certain time. That’s certainly something that all new shopping centres should be implementing.

Flawed legislation

Jin-Yee Lim: Currently legislation is fundamentally flawed. We’re talking about carbon reduction, which is an absolute figure, and yet Building Regulations, Part L for example, talk about efficiency. Theoretically, I could use a very inefficient light source in a building and I could get the lighting effect to be as good as if not better than a very efficient light source, and use less energy, just by using it more effectively and less often. So it’s all about absolute figures, because carbon reduction is an absolute figure – how much CO2 is saved per year. Regulations talk about efficiency, and at the moment they don’t match up. The other issue is the power factor. How much energy is being consumed at the store, but how much is being generated at the power station? If you increase the power factor, then again we’re looking at carbon reduction as well.

Lux Retail Forum 04

Russell Lipscombe discusses regulation as Robert Goodman looks on

Michael McDonnell: There’s a lot of gear out there, especially LED drivers, that have entered the market that are very low power factors, very inefficient product, but because it’s an LED driver people think it’s great, it’s the new technology, it’s the thing to have, but there are some big no-nos with it. There are still a lot of inferior drivers on the market. With some of the new developments now in LED modules, it’s moving on in leaps and bounds, and I think it’s on the cusp of entering the retail display market.

Fitting in

Miles Pinniger: With MR16s they all fit the same socket and use the same voltage. When you come to LEDs they’re all different, and I really do feel sorry for any retailer who gets into the LED game at the moment, because for a start the product he’s just bought, which he believes to be the latest technology, will be obsolete within six months, and he won’t be able to get replacements for the LED units themselves because they will have long since become obsolescent.

Roger Sexton: I think in terms of the control gear it’s becoming standard. Our product is future-proof. As LEDs get more efficient, you can take them out, but the optical interface isn’t changing, the mechanical interface isn’t changing. The industry has a steep learning curve to go through, but it’s been through it before.

Lux Retail Forum 05

Time for some chilly time out on One New Change's roof terrace

Lower light levels

David Tilley: There are a lot of retailers now that are considering lower light levels. A few that we’ve worked on in the past want to reduce, but they don’t want to be the first to do it. They want the industry to start helping them change the design and change the way in which they work. The key is they’ve got to sell product. There’s no point in having the most efficient store that works well, that’s maintained easily, if they don’t sell the amount of product they need to sell to be profitable.

Russell Lipscombe: It’s about regulation. One of the strictest places in the world for power consumption is California. It’s 15 watts per square metre, even in stores. You can’t get permission to build a place unless you can prove that you can meet that. Because of that, even the fashion retailers have learned ‘we can’t have our usual light levels, so how do we get the most out of it?’ So you can still work within those parameters, because you have to. Somebody’s got to say: ‘Right, that’s what you’ve got to do.’

Andy Smith: The driving factor with retailers is sales, and everything else is secondary, especially in this climate. So legislation is key, and so is education.

Lux Retail Forum 06

Michael Fern says most briefs are concerned with brand, not efficiency

Ray Molony: What about the Carbon Reduction Commitment?

Bill Wright: The Carbon Reduction Commitment is a little bit of a side issue at present. The single biggest driver at the moment is the price of energy, and the price of energy can change 5 per cent, 10 per cent in a month or three months, which is far more than the effect of the CRC. If the price of energy rises 10 per cent, which it could easily do in the next six months, that’s more than the CRC has, and that’s totally out of your control, so you actually should be doing energy-efficiency work now.

Mark Faithfull: For the foreseeable future retail sales growth is going to remain extremely challenging. Energy cost is going to continue to go up. Retailers have closed as many stores as they can and got rid of as many staff as they can, and they’ve screwed their suppliers as much as they can. There isn’t much further they can go, and yet they have got this great big hole being burnt in their pockets. Do we think that we might see a sea change in the way they’re thinking, simply through reality, or do we think it’s going to take a long time for those things to seep through and they just think sales, sales, sales?

Sales, sales, sales

John Mellor: They do think sales, sales, sales. They want to change how they look towards their customers, they’re very protective of their brands, but at the front end they want to have a wide range of brand issues to portray to the customer.

Lux Retail Forum 07

Foyles in One New Change is lit entirely by LED sources

Maida Hot: There is a drive towards introducing daylight. We’ve recently done a project with Selfridges where part of the brief was introducing daylight, so they opened up everything they could, but normally it’s a big, big enemy. Six or seven years ago we did John Lewis at the Trafford Centre. There was a big circular roof light in the middle of the store, and we put up louvres to exclude sunlight. They opened up some windows in Brown Thomas store, part of the Selfridges in Dublin, and they really liked it, and the owners really wanted to use daylight. So by just carefully doing it so you exclude sunlight, which is a real problem because of the UV and all sorts of things, it really makes people stay there.

Ray Molony: What’s going on overseas?

Richard Greenleaf: All the same issues, all the same energy problems, and they’re all very aware of energy consumption. It’s not a UK thing any more. The question that’s always asked is ‘Can LEDs take over from other light sources?’, but I think that’s sort of missing the point slightly in that you need a palette of options. You can’t just have a single-source solution to lighting any more. Different light sources are better at different tasks, especially in fashion retail, and you need a level of dimness for your display lighting to actually work. And colour rendition – some high-end retailers we’re working with, even if they’re as energy-efficient as they want to be, when it comes down to trying the clothes on in the changing rooms they’re still putting in halogen lighting, because when you’re at that point of purchase, with the customer in front of the mirror, you still want the best lighting, and it’s still halogen.

Bill Wright: There is one other driver that should be driving us towards energy efficiency. By about 2015, UK demand is going to exceed supply. We’re going to have to become more efficient because the price of energy will rocket as we get towards that date, and it may not be available as much as we want. It’s going to be a major driver to efficiency, purely because of cost and because it’s not going to be there.




Ray Molony, editor, Lux
Bill Wright
, BCSC, formerly with John Lewis Partnership
Michael McDonnell
, sales and marketing director, Harvard Engineering
John Mellor
, design director, SCG London
Miles Pinniger
, independent consultant
Andy Smith
, Gamma Illumination
Maida Hot
, NDYLight
Roger Sexton
, Xicato
Rasib Khan
, engineering manager, Harvard Engineering
Richard Greenleaf
, associate director, Hosker Moore Kent Melia
Mark Faithfull
, editor, Retail Property Analyst
Iain Trent
, project engineering, Land Securities
Robert Goodman
, director, One New Change (Land Securities)
Russell Lipscombe
, Light Tecnica
Michael Fern
, creative head of retail, Portland
Simon Thorp
Jin-Yee Lim
, Liminaires
Geoff Coffin
, Planned Lighting Maintenance
David Tilley
, DJ Consultancy

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