Why Next’s LED move is a defining moment

Make no mistake: Next’s decision to roll out LEDs to all its stores is a major milestone in the lighting business.

Next has ordered more than 100,000 LED luminaires for its stores

UK retailers are famously tight with their cash. So when a major high street name spends £4 million of its own money on a new technology, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Peter Bowman and the highly experienced team at Next will have done their homework, and must have been convinced that this retrofit will provide a big and rapid payback.

After trials involving no fewer than 3,000 fittings at six stores, Next is to replace a staggering 110,000 downlights across its estate.

By replacing low-voltage halogen units with solid-state equivalents that use a fraction of the power, Next will save on direct energy and maintenance. Additionally, it reckons it’ll save 34 per cent on energy for air conditioning.

The payback period will be under three years, and probably closer to two.

All very impressive, but what’s most important to retailers is the quality of the light – the ‘look and feel’. Clearly Next is satisfied that the colour rendering provided by the Xicato modules in these luminaires is close enough to halogen to do justice to their brand and their products – even lighting experts struggle to tell the difference from halogen.

It’s often said that we overestimate the impact of a new technology in the short term, and underestimate it in the long term. Well, we’re now officially in the long term for solid-state lighting, and the landscape is changing before our eyes.

Think about it: apart from the Olympics, how many orders worth as much as £4 million have we seen in the UK market? And where are the big lighting brands in all this?

The Next deal is a major coup for Projection, who won the lion’s share of the work with an order for 90,000 AlphaLED luminaires, and who deserve loads of credit for pulling it off. Sure, the margin will be tight, but the sales directors at the big luminaire brands would have given their firstborn for an order like this.

As other buyers wait cautiously on the brink and watch the development of LED, Next’s decision to jump is bound to give them itchy feet. Which retailer will follow with the next big LED roll-out? And who will be the first commercial office player to retrofit its 600 x 600 modulars with LEDs?

Other big deals like this are in the pipeline and will be announced over the coming months and years. And as the specifications of LED products improve, this process can only accelerate.

LEDs are about to live up to the hype.

Passionate and mischievous to the end

It seems cruel and somehow unjust that Jonathan – with his youthful enthusiasm for technology and infectious love of life – should be taken from us so young.

Join the revolution!

There’s a revolution going on in lighting. And like all revolutions, it’s getting rid of the old order and bringing in the new.