INTERVIEWS

Managing director, Thorn Lighting UK


My priority is repositioning Thorn
I want to create Thorn 2.0. We had to look at how we were organised, and it became clear to me that we have to organise around the customers and the segments that give us the opportunities to meet our growth objectives, which are about 10 per cent per year for the foreseeable future.

All things to all men is a recipe for failure
The lighting market is very fragmented, which means niche competitors can take a share. So Thorn will not be a generalist business any longer. We will be multi-niche, and there’s a subtle but large difference between those two things. So we’ll pick the applications and the segments we want to excel in, and that is how we will structure this business. So the days of ‘everything to everybody’ are gone.

The Thorn brand is alive and well
We’ve done some research recently, and the Thorn brand is alive and well. Whether that’s manifested itself in the results is debatable, but the brand is alive and well, and we are in a number one position. So we are in a position of strength still. I think the question is: how much stronger we can get on the back of that brand? And have we used the brand to communicate to the right people what our offer is?

The public lighting market is a big opportunity for us
We will re-invest in it heavily. Historically, Thorn had a large market share in public lighting. We want to go back to those days, and we’ve got a big investment programme around either LED light sources or new lantern and optics technologies to get us into the outdoor market. Later in the year you’ll see some more products for that.

There are opportunities for us in retail
Perhaps our portfolio is not finalised yet in shop lighting, but retailing is much more than that. There’s logistics, there’s office, there’s warehousing, there’s the outdoor environment. We will definitely focus on the retailing environment.

There’s a huge gap in the market for solutions not just product
There’s a lot of talk about providing ‘solutions’ but I don’t really see too much evidence that people understand what that means. So we will set up a business called Thorn Energy Solutions that will give people a one-stop answer to retrofit their existing lighting installations to a much more energy-efficient solution. We will take them on that lighting design journey, arranging the finance through the various bodies and government initiatives, and delivering their projects quickly and on time.

About half our business is probably retrofit
It’s hard to say exactly. We put a lot of product into the wholesale channel, and you lose track of it – whether it’s going into new build or retrofit. But in terms of how much of our product is sold as part of a complete solution, then very little right now of course. It’s one of the major areas for growth.

There’s still a lot of euphoria about LED
LED is not everything to everybody. It’s certainly the right choice in certain segments. For instance, distribution and cold store is great for LEDs because they love the cold. If you look at where they are from a colour quality and lumen package point of view right now, then the day of a halogen downlighter is surely over for new build and refurb projects.

Is LED a replacement for fluorescent yet? Probably not. Will that come? Yes, of course it will. Because the guys who are inventing light sources and driving light source technology will drive efficiencies and technologies to do that. So it will happen, without a shadow of a doubt.

We need modular LED engines
There’s certainly a case to say that LED [installations] will be worth renovating and updating in 10 years, which is why the lighting industry must create modular upgradeable platforms rather than some LED products that are sealed solutions that will have to be disposed of. So I think it’s important that we focus on modularity and upgradeability because technology will carry on replacing itself.

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