GE Lighting devised an innovative way to educate retailers about lighting trends and products, and has been on the road since February with its GE Lighting Revolution Tour. Chain Store Age talked with GE’s Cate Gutowski about the tour, its objectives and what lies ahead for retail lighting.
This month marks the conclusion of the GE Lighting Revolution Tour. Can you briefly describe the tour and its objectives?
Lighting has changed more in the past five years than in the past 50 years, and the GE Lighting Revolution Tour has been a great way to demonstrate innovative lighting solutions. Each year we typically have around 9,000 customers travel to the GE Lighting Institute at Nela Park (Ohio) for lighting education. However, the benefit of the GE Revolution Tour is that we can reach more customers faster.
The Revolution Tour has been on the road since February, and has enabled customers in more than 40 cities in North America the opportunity to interact with the hands-on displays of our new LED products and other products of ecomagination. The goal of the Revolution tour is to provide education on energy-efficient lighting technologies, as well as the upcoming legislation.
What did you glean from the tour with regard to the current state, and future, of lighting?
From the cities I visited, I’ve seen that customers are struggling to find new ways to reduce their energy usage, and they are looking for help. Many customers have done projects that they consider to be low-hanging fruit, for example T12 to T8 linear fluorescent conversions, and now they’re looking for their next big opportunity for energy savings, so naturally they are looking at LED.
One of the common challenges that we heard while on the tour is that retailers want to invest in LED and other energy-efficient technologies, but they are struggling with how they can get their CFO to commit to fund it. We’ve been listening to these problems, and we’re working with GE Capital on solutions to help. For example, we are hosting our 3rd Annual LED for Retail Conference at Nela Park Nov. 2 to 3, and this will be one of several key topics that we’ll be addressing for customers.
What trends should we all be watching for?
We are now at the front edge of a new solid-state lighting age. For years, GE technologists at our Global Research Center have envisioned all-LED rooms and spaces, and now that vision has become a new reality. Earlier this year, we introduced our new line of LED Edge Lighting fixtures. These new, design-forward fixtures feature an ultra-thin light guide with built-in LED technology that will offer full dimming capability and unique architectural styling. We’ve had tremendous response from customers on this new product line.
In fact, there has been a lot of excitement around the 2x2 ceiling troughers, as well as the suspended fixtures that appear to float in thin air through a dramatically framed light source. This new technology allows lighting designers to eliminate hot spots, which has been a common issue among today’s fluorescent options.
Will LEDs continue to be at the forefront of our lighting discussions in the years ahead?
LED has evolved tremendously. In the past, LED only made economic sense for applications such as signage, refrigerated display cases and traffic signals. Over the past three years that I’ve led our national accounts sales team, I’ve witnessed firsthand how a variety of retailers and restaurant customers globally are adopting this technology for a multitude of applications, such as accent lighting, cove lighting, display cases, parking lots and now for general lighting.
We’ve executed on a variety of large-scale LED project installations and, years later, those LEDs are still burning with low failure rates. The technology is amazing, and it will only continue to improve and provide more opportunities to enhance design.