Lighting the Way

Are grocers underestimating the impact good lighting can have on store appearance and the bottom line?
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No retailer wants to pay more than they need to on utilities. Yet, each month many businesses often spend as much as 60 to 80 percent more than they have to on lighting alone. By making some simple changes, industry observers say grocers can reverse this.

Some grocers have already realized the potential and taken advantage of the facility improvements and cost savings made possible by LED lighting. Many others are just now realizing the potential, while some are still on the fence.

In addition to the obvious benefits, lighting offers retailers a host of tangible benefits as well, say officials at LEDingEDGE Lighting, based in Camarillo, Calif., including an edge against the competition. 

“The grocery business is as competitive as ever, and to be successful, stores must be nimble and quick,” says Tony Moore, president of LEDingEDGE. “Changing layout, moving shelves and resetting to adapt for new product means everything must be flexible. Driving energy usage and costs down is a major goal of retailers today.”

In terms of indoor lighting, officials at Hussmann say more customers are converting older fluorescent lights to LEDs—in overhead applications as well as refrigerated merchandisers. Marc Carr, global LED and energy services senior product manager for the Bridgeton, Mo.-based company, says as more customers take the LED plunge, they are realizing the benefits of LED, not only with energy and maintenance savings, but also in terms of the light quality that LEDs can provide when it comes to color, clarity and intensity. 

“A quality LED solution can provide an enhanced merchandising experience for shoppers, especially in the prepared food and meat departments,” he says.

Observers say that benchmark grocers go to great lengths to create an inviting shopping experience for their shoppers and understand that improving the full customer experience is key. Lighting clearly adds to the overall aesthetics of the store and visual cues greatly influence a customer’s purchasing habits. Simply put, the better lit a facility is—including the exterior parking lot and the interior of the store—the more attractive it appears to customers. 

Observers say that upon entering a store, lighting performance becomes the foundation of customer experience. Just as overall cleanliness and attractive displays create a positive first impression for shoppers entering a grocery store, light levels play a critical role in the overall experience, says Robert Schmidt, president and CEO of Joule Energy. The New Orleans-based energy solutions provider is best known for its LED lighting and utility-scale and commercial solar services. The Joule team handles everything from initial site audits, new system design and procurement and installation, while consistently innovating to improve customers’ bottom line.

Research shows that consumers are drawn to light and that they handle and interact with well-lit products more than those under dim lighting. However, as Schmidt notes this also poses a challenge for grocers to maintain even, bright lighting vertically so that products on top, bottom and middle shelves get enough light. “Lighting that reaches all of your products also makes labels easier to read, which helps elderly customers especially,” he says. 

There is a bottom line benefit as well. Observers say upgrading lighting will not only improve the customer experience, but grocery stores also stand to benefit from huge savings when they switch to LED lighting.

For instance, research shows that LED lighting requires 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights. Even when compared to more efficient fluorescent lights, LED T8 tubes are 50 percent more efficient than fluorescent T8 tubes. Additionally, LED lights typically last more than 10 years, which represents a savings in replacement and maintenance costs. 

“Using LED lighting solutions means a better, more consistent experience for customers with less disruption to your operations,” says Schmidt. “With the grocery industry margins so tight, LED lighting is a no-brainer to lower fixed costs while improving your customer’s experience.” 

 There has been an evolution in retailers’ mindsets when it comes the role lighting plays within the overall merchandising strategy in the store, says Nick Jordan, COO of St. Louis-based BAERO North America. Jordan notes that the variety of lighting options that has become available, explicitly created for the grocery store environment, has had a lot to do with this change in thinking. 

“Many grocers are realizing the power of effective lighting for their displays,” says Jordan. “Lighting made specifically for the range of products they are displaying elevates their presentation to the next level.” 

While many retailers are becoming savvier around LED technology and how to effectively apply it to optimize merchandising value, observers say there are still retailers that may not be completely sold on the benefits of LED. Carr says one retailer told him he gets a new LED vendor knocking on his door every other day. 

What many retailers do not understand is that some companies may have a decent product and others, not so much. This can lead to the perception that all LED lights are the same, which could result in choosing the wrong LED for a specific application.

Hussmann’s recommendation is that retailers choose a quality LED from a reputable company focused on enhancing the merchandising value of products rather than selling a light bulb. “At the end of the day, anyone can choose the low-cost solution, but do you really want to risk sacrificing product merchandising?” he asks, noting that Hussmann actively manages its own line of EcoShine LEDs

A brand new light

As competition hits every retail channel, lighting has the ability to offer retailers a leg up in the way no other technology ever has, says observers. For instance, the advent of sensors that can be embedded into a light fixture is proving to be a game changer because of its ability to yield key insights on shopper behavior and movement throughout the store. 

With the addition of these sensor chips, the conversation is now about power, data collecting, color tuning, controlling the light and how all of this combined can positively influence shoppers’ purchasing behavior. “Lighting isn’t just about lighting anymore—now it’s so much more,” says Bill Plageman, vice president of marketing for Amerlux, based in Oakland, N.J. As Plageman notes, in the best scenario, when products are lit the right way, it draws customers in and presents products in the finest possible light, while reducing energy usage and costs. 

Not that long ago stores looked at lighting strictly in terms of ROI. Now lighting is used to make food pop off the shelves and appear as fresh as possible. “Grocers are taking a look at how re-lighting the aisle could influence sales between the shelves,” says Plageman. In the case of the under shopped center store, he adds, grocers are exploring whether lighting the space differently could generate more appeal and interest from shoppers.

 “Given the crossroads many grocers are at today—dealing with the impact online shopping is having on their stores, combined with the way Millennials are shopping and the emphasis on fresh and prepared foods—best practice retailers realize it is time to re-think the way they approach lighting design,” says Plageman.

He notes how some department stores in Europe are putting a better foot forward with lighting their dressing rooms. In some instances, he says, retailers are changing out their unflattering fixtures and replacing them with a color tuning system. So a woman trying on a work dress, for example, can push a button to see what the dress looks like in a typical office lighting environment. The same goes for the woman trying on an evening dress.

“Imagine having the ability to enhance growth in a store without sunshine,” says Plageman. “Could the basil in the bags on the shelf with the roots still attached survive longer or possibly even grow in the store?” Surrounding the customers’ senses with both visual and olfactory cues, he adds, screams ‘fresh’ to your shoppers.

Clearly, having a better understanding of how shoppers navigate the store would help retailers better determine the best placement for signage, products and even where certain departments would work best. “Put another way, given all these capabilities, lighting is definitely moving from something that was grounded in ‘one-size-fits-all’ functionality to more of a prescriptive nature,” says Plageman. “A company such as ours can customize a store’s lighting program based on what that specific retailer is looking to accomplish, department by department, aisle by aisle.”

The speed of light

New technologies on the horizon, including advancements in digital, are slated to impact lighting. According to Schmidt, the next big thing to hit LED lighting is the addition of sensors to light fixtures. He says these sensors will allow facility owners to collect data and find new operational efficiencies. “For grocery stores specifically, managers will be able to unobtrusively track occupancy for better staffing and intelligently organize products and displays,” says Schmidt.

Hussmann’s focus this year is on improved color rendering of its LED lights. The company has improved the CRI in its LEDs as well as increased the R9 value, which enables more accurate rendering of red colors in products and packaging, including meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. The end result, says Carr, is an application specific solution that enables excellence in lighting merchandising.

“As a business, we are focused on optimizing the merchandising value of our customers’ products in the case, and lighting is a critical element to help shoppers see and select products based on the vibrant colors as well as the correct quantity and quality of light for each specific application,” says Carr.

Hussmann is also launching an updated EcoShine LED for its EcoVision doors, designed to provide better lighting quality and enhance the overall appeal of the products behind the doors.

LEDingEDGE’s solution to the problem of flexibility in lighted shelving/gondola display is its new TIPS low-voltage power distribution system. Moore says TIPS allows users to move shelves with ease and without having to rewire the gondola each time. 

“Simply twist-in the TIPS jumpers to connect shelf lighting to the power grid on gondola back panels,” he says, noting that the sleek and durable system can easily be added to any display or gondola in minutes.

LEDingEDGE has also introduced the IP 68, a waterproof rated linear LED luminaire that has excellent lumen per watt efficacy featuring a high CRI rating for color rendition, low energy use, high light output and perfect color, adds Moore. “Our new TIPS Low-Voltage Power Distribution system allows quick change of Linear LED lighting, and when coupled with our IP68 waterproof linear LED for undershelf illumination, retailers can have it all,” he says.

Amerlux recently added high performance LEDs to its NITRO family of architecturally styled pendants for ambient and general lighting applications in supermarket, retail, hospitality and commercial spaces. 

NITRO A16 features a 16-inch aperture with an acrylic, 2 percent nitrogen infused refractor, which surrounds the light source and reduces glare while providing a comfortable ambient light level. Available in various wattages ranging from 27 to 94 watts, the NITRO A16 can be used in place of conventional lighting such as metal halide and fluorescent lighting applications and offers more options in color tones, output control and beam spreads. The end result is a pendant that offers a unique nitrogen-infused light source that reduces glare and enhances visual comfort.

BAERO North America’s Alpha H3 combines the perfect lighting color with unique reflectors to address the needs of each department of the store, says Jordan. He adds that the company’s Kappa D1 addresses the center store’s need for updated lighting. “The center store has long been served by strip fluorescents at the ceiling creating a very drab atmosphere,” says Jordan. “The Kappa D1 brings the light closer to the product and uses top of the line LEDs to bring new life to the center store.”    



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