Anyone who doubts the LED revolution need only look at the UK’s retail sector. Savvy high street brands are convinced by LED lighting and are talking big numbers. Very big numbers.
Next, for instance, has just awarded contracts for an LED retrofit rollout involving more than 100,000 luminaires (see page 20).
The owner of Gateshead’s Metro Centre, Lakeside in Essex and 13 other large shopping malls is two-thirds of the way through a relamp in which more than 57,000 LED sources will be installed (see page 22).
Tesco’s mammoth project to convert all its freezer and chiller cabinets to LED lighting is continuing.
WHSmith has also embarked on a big LED rollout, and Asda, Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose and John Lewis are also turning to LEDs (see pages 28-31).
UK retailers are famously tight with their cash. So when these major high street names spend millions of pounds of their shareholders’ money on a new technology, it’s time to sit up and take notice.
And make no mistake: these guys have done their homework. The due diligence involved in these contracts is pretty eye-watering, by all accounts.
People such as Peter Bowman and the highly experienced team at Next will only give the go-ahead when they are absolutely convinced they’ll get a big and rapid payback.
Next did trials at no fewer than six stores, involving some 3,000 fittings. A £3 million investment in new lighting for older branches is expected to save £1 million and pay for itself in two and half years – and that’s only a portion of the work underway at Next.
By replacing low-voltage halogen units with solid-state equivalents that use a fraction of the power, Next will save on direct energy use and on maintenance. And it reckons it’ll make big savings on energy used for air conditioning.
All very impressive, but what’s most important to retailers is the quality of the light – the crucial ‘look and feel’. Clearly Next is satisfied that the colour rendering provided by these luminaires is close enough to halogen to do justice to its brand and its products. Many of the fittings are from Projection’s AlphaLED range, which use Xicato LED modules. Others are Luxonic products with GE Infusion modules. Even lighting experts struggle to tell the difference from halogen.
The Next deal is a major coup for Projection, which won £4 million of business, and the company deserves loads of credit for pulling it off. Sure, the margin will be tight, but the sales directors at the bigger luminaire brands would have given their firstborn for an order like this.
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?
Increasingly, these big orders are being won by relatively recent entrants to the lighting market: a new breed of agile, LED specialists who deal directly with the client.
As other users wait cautiously on the sidelines and watch the development of LED technology, Next’s decision to jump is bound to give them itchy feet. Which retailer will follow with the next big LED rollout? 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.
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.
LEDs are about to live up to the hype.