An indication of interest

A struggling economy may reduce the number of builders’ skips hired or takeaway curries ordered, but demand for free events is increasing, at least according to the free event index

The misery index is an economic indicator created by economist Arthur Okun. It can be calculated by adding the unemployment rate to the inflation rate. In the UK, it’s at its highest level for nearly 20 years.

Many indexes in the growing list of unofficial economic indicators aren’t looking too rosy either.

These include the builders’ skip index – a guide to the amount of renovation activity taking place – and the curry house index – the time quoted for your take away order being ready – which is down from a peak of 30 minutes in late 2007 to a little under 15 minutes today, reflecting a weakening market for delicious Indian cuisine.

Meanwhile, the charity shop index reflects the state of the UK high street and indicates the number of real shops compared with the number of charity shops that pay reduced rent and rates.

An index for lighting

To help us all sleep in our beds at night, we need to develop a range of non-economic indicators to reflect the current state of the lighting industry.

My own barometer is based on the visitor book index. This shows the state of any business – a large number of visitors in a given period is usually a sign that a company is busy and doing lots of things.

This should be prefixed with a positive or negative to reflect the type a visitor. Negative is a book with lots of visits from bank managers, solicitors and debt collectors, hence a sign of potential trouble ahead. A positive book is rammed with clients, suppliers and the Lux magazine sales team.

The Lux magazine jobs index is a measure of how many job opportunities are listed in the magazine and online, this indicator is currently stable.

Similarly, I see the Leafnut index – the number of street lights fitted with a Leafnut Ariel from Harvard Engineering – which reflects the state of adoption of energy-saving technology and the rate of local council/public finance initiative spending.

However, perhaps one index that is showing a little cause for concern is the free event index (FEI), a measure of how easy it is to get specifiers to attend free lighting events. In an economic boom, everyone jets off to far-flung places for client meetings or final commissioning of a project, but a little less travel in more austere times means they would love to meet like-minded peers and enjoy a free bar.

Last month’s Lutron Energy Club, hosted by Lux magazine, was packed-out, but perhaps this was more a measure of the high-quality speaker list and engaging content than a reflection of the country’s economic woes.

In the wider economy, who knows what is about to happen? The government is starting to talk of plan B, or a slight U-turn in the current austerity measures. Rather than the tax reductions tried last time, capital spending is back on the agenda in the form of new roads, railways and hospitals – which is good for consultants, manufacturers and contractors alike. All this is taking place against a background of increasing energy costs, and is sure to bolster the economic argument for energy-efficiency measures further up the agenda of building owners and end-users.

Before you start chasing down government generated specifications and a raft of new opportunities, make sure you’re clued up on the latest and greatest energy-saving kit by talking to manufacturers exhibiting at LuxLive 2011. This event is sending the FEI through the roof with a range of conference and seminar topics that will cover the best in design and energy-saving lighting technology.

If you have any non-economic lighting industry indicators worthy of discussion, let us know about them via Twitter, email or even a letter.

Follow Gordon on Twitter: @gordonroutledge

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