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In the Spotlight: Lighting Trends

Laura Prestwood Thompson, of the TCU Center for Lighting Education, discussed lighting trends in retail stores.

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Lighting plays a critical role in retail, and is rapidly evolving to meet changing regulations and customer needs. Dr. Laura Prestwood Thompson, director of the TCU Center for Lighting Education, Texas Christian University, discussed how stores and restaurants in 2025 will light their interiors and looked at the technologies and trends that will impact retail lighting during the SPECS workshop session, “Lighting 2025.”

“The quality of light is key,” Thompson said. “You create an aesthetic for your brand that impacts the customer experience.”

Looking ahead to 2025, Thompson said lighting codes will be commonplace and largely dictate what type of lighting can be used in stores. Also, as cost of energy constitutes 70% of total cost of ownership for lighting, energy-related matters and codes will become the most important factors in selecting lighting.

“You must put money into controls,” Thompson advised.

In addition, Thompson said by 2025 most retail lighting will be LED, or light-emitting diode, which is more complicated than traditional lighting.

“LED is not just a light bulb — it has a brain,” Thompson explained. “The majority of interior retail lighting in 2025 will be LED. This includes retrofitting and new construction.”

Thompson said there are several advantages to using LED lighting. Although LED lighting is still expensive up front, in the long term, it may still represent a more cost-effective investment than cheaper traditional lighting. In addition to various rebate programs, Thompson also cited the resiliency and power of LED lighting.

“You get a lot of lumens from a few watts,” she explained. “You get 13 to 15 lumens from 60 to 70 watts. This translates to high ROI from high efficacy. LED lights last 50,000-plus hours, so maintenance in changing them is lower. There is no mercury, lead or glass. They are durable and dimmable.”

Furthermore, Thompson said LED will become a mainstream lighting technology over time, as its costs come down.

“LED will be affordable for the masses in 10 to 15 years,” Thompson predicted. Part of the expansion in retail LED lighting Thompson sees in the next 10 years or so is a vast increase in its use for exterior as well as interior lighting.

“By 2025, virtually all exterior lighting will be LED,” Thompson stated. “Right now, we have serious light pollution. Light is wasted shining up or on ‘light trespass,’ which is the uncontrolled glare or light from another property intruding on a property. If the property is another retailer they probably won’t care, but if it is residential or mixed use, they will probably mind.”

Thompson also stressed the importance of natural lighting to create a rich customer experience.

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of natural daylight,” she said. “Where you can, don’t ignore it. Wal-Mart tracked sales of merchandise in proximity to daylight, and sales increased — even when they switched the merchandise around. It can come through a skylight, window or door. If you’re in a mall situation where you can’t get daylight directly in the store, a skylight in the atrium can allow you to harvest some daylight.”