Focus on: Lighting
Conserving energy just seems to come naturally to Staples Inc. The office supply chain’s embrace of energy-efficient technologies and practices throughout its facilities has won it a reputation as one of the retail industry’s leading green stars. Indeed, Staples was recently honored as the 2011 Energy Star Partner of the Year in Energy Management by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its leadership in energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
Staples’ commitment to reducing its impact on the environment is also good for its business, as is evidenced by two recent lighting retrofits. The projects, undertaken in partnership with Sylvania Lighting Services (SLS), a subsidiary of Osram Sylvania, are estimated to save Staples a combined 10,193,770 kilowatt-hours annually, lessening the company’s carbon footprint by 15,647,437 lbs. of CO2 emissions annually, while also limiting the stores’ maintenance needs. The bottom-line savings are equally impressive: The project resulted in more than a million dollars in annual energy savings.
After reviewing the lighting systems used in Staples’ interiors, SLS recommended upgrading from first-generation T8 fluorescent lamps to a high-efficiency T8 lamp and ballast system for nearly 700 retail locations across the country. SLS retrofitted approximately 1,000 30-watt linear fluorescent lamps per location with 28-watt Octron 800XP SuperSaver fluorescent lamps and Quicktronic high-efficiency, instant-start, T8 ballasts.
“The 700 stores identified for upgrades are projects scheduled over several years, at least four years in the time frame,” said Bob Valair, director of energy and environmental management, Staples. “It’s Staples’ strategy to consider retrofit lighting in stores that have reached an eight-to-10-year time frame in lighting.”
The new lamps have not impacted store environment.
“In an ideal lighting retrofit, the lighting to associates and customers should not be noticeable,” Valair explained. “The best retrofit provides better technology and more efficient lighting, but not a noticeable change.”
As to new stores, Staples is always updating its store prototype and store design with the latest technology.
“This allows for the new stores to be installed with the latest and most efficient technology,” Valair added.
In a related project, SLS installed Sylvania PowerShed ballasts in more than 100 Staples stores in California. The high-tech ballasts interface with smart-grid technology and lower store light levels during periods of peak electricity demand, limiting the risk of rolling blackouts.
PARKING LOT: After reviewing the existing 400-watt metal-halide fixtures used throughout the parking lot of Staples headquarters, SLS recommended a switch to a 42-watt modular LED lighting system featuring 28 Osram Golden Dragon Plus Oval LED packages.
Using roughly one-tenth the energy of the metal-halide lamps, the LEDs are a brighter and whiter light source. The directional quality of the lamps provide illumination only where needed, and eliminate unnecessary upward light and light trespass.
As to whether Staples plans to implement the LED parking lot retrofit in other locations, Valair said the company will consider it for the new store prototype. He noted the company is continuously testing new products and technologies.
Staples’ North American properties are under an SLS lighting maintenance program whereby the chain’s lighting is monitored on a regular basis.
The Lowdown on LED Lighting
Some call 2011 the year of the LED lighting revolution, and that isn’t far from reality. There is no question that the industry has started to move closer to mass adoption of LED lighting solutions as prices stabilized, and as the industry promoted the energy gains to be made through LED installations without sacrificing lighting quality.
Chain Store Age talked with Bill Plageman, VP marketing for Fairfield, N.J.-based Amerlux Lighting, about trends in LED lighting and whether the product is gaining real traction among retailers.
What trends are you seeing in terms of how retailers are lighting their stores? The clear trend is LED accent lighting. Many, if not most, retailers understand the importance of accenting merchandise, but couldn’t do much of it in the past due to energy restrictions. Now, with LED, there is a real — and quantifiable — return on investment.
What would be the primary reasons for a retailer to move to LED lighting?
Energy reduction is one of the main reasons for the move to LED, but what retailers are finding to be even more valuable is the reduction in maintenance costs. In most cases, the savings in maintenance make a move to LED lighting a no-brainer decision for a retailer.
Do you find that most retailers are lighting their stores as efficiently as they can?
Unfortunately, the Department of Energy is making it difficult for retailers to really gain a full understanding about how best to light their stores, both efficiently and effectively. How retailers light their stores and what products they use are key, but the DOE can actually be an impediment to the process, as it puts far more importance on cutting energy costs, with less concern about the quality of the light.
What should a retailer’s considerations be when trying to save money without sacrificing light quality?
What retailers should be looking at are the design intent and what type of beam and intensity are required to sell their products. The Center Beam Candle Power (CBCP) is often overlooked. By putting their focus on the CBCP, retailers could potentially use less wattage and still provide better color and generate a higher level of product attention when lighting their stores.
With so much buzz about LEDs, do you think that LED lighting will ever be used for general lighting in retail stores?
Yes. It will take some time, but I do believe that LED will be used in retail as general lighting, especially since retailers prefer to avoid a “patchwork” lighting effect. Most retailers prefer the visual uniformity that comes as a result of a single lighting technology.
However, today, if you run the numbers, LED just doesn’t provide the ROI when compared with LED systems. T8 fluorescent systems are less expensive than an LED system and are extremely efficient in lumens per watt and life.
What role does LED play toward creating sustainable stores?
Because retailers can no longer afford to over-light stores, sustainable retail environments will eliminate light waste by lowering unnecessary light levels — and LED plays to that by directing light precisely where it is needed in order to highlight product and direct customers through the stores.
As well, the ability for retailers to digitally control their LED store lighting allows them to dim and color-adjust as needed, saving energy while maintaining the quality of the light.
What new products and projects do you have in the pipeline?
While we have many new products in the pipeline, Amerlux is more about providing solutions to retailers. The LED product today may not be the LED that the retailer needs to solve its design requirements. Amerlux has been more successful in working with the retailers in providing lighting solutions that targets their specific needs. In fact, many of the Amerlux products that are now considered to be our standard have emerged out of solving real-world lighting issues. We understand that one light doesn’t fit all.
For a couple of years running, I devoted my July column to a summer retail-reading list. But over time, the new books seemed more or less interchangeable with the ones from the previous year, so I moved on.
This summer, I decided to bring back the annual list. I did so because of two titles that caught my eye. Literally. On a surface glance, they couldn’t be more different. But each is fascinating in its own way — and each addresses some very timely concerns. So start reading — it’s already July!
Force of Nature: A former river-rafting guide named Jib Ellison is the unlikely hero of the very lively “Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes. It was Ellison and his BluSkye consulting firm that arranged global trips where Lee Scott, then-CEO of Wal-Mart, encountered the impact of the planet’s changing climate, pesticides and air pollution.
Beyond all the interesting detail, this is a must-read for anyone who remains doubtful that going green can actually be profitable. The book lays out how Wal-Mart executives came to understand that pollution was just another word for waste, a word long anathema to the chain’s culture.
Ellison brought an important message to Wal-Mart: Going green wasn’t about the PR. Instead, sustainability was the biggest untapped opportunity for businesses of the 21st century, ultimately making for a more efficient and more profitable retail operation. And it’s that bottom-line drive which made the Bentonville, Ark., behemoth a game-changer in nearly everything it undertakes, including reducing its environmental footprint.
Malled: There have been lots of books written about the retail industry, but only a handful have ever taken on life behind the cash register and on the sales floor. Credit author Caitlin Kelly for bringing the subject to life in “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail,” which offers a blunt, brutally frank assessment of life on the retail frontlines.
After losing her job as a journalist in 2007, Kelly took a part-time job at a popular clothing store in her local mall. Along with supplementing her freelance income, she thought the job would help maintain her sanity and sense of worth. And she thought it would be simple. She was proved wrong on all counts.
Middle-aged and mid-career, Kelly was thrown headfirst into the harsh reality of the retail workplace, an environment where everyone was expendable. The unexpected physical pressures and low wages, coupled with what she saw as relentless — and often unreasonable — demands from a remote corporate bureaucracy and a dead-end career path, eventually took their toll on her as they did most others.
Kelly stayed on the job for two years and three months — a lifetime compared with most of her peers. Her observations, along with those of other mall workers and industry experts, paint a mostly depressing picture. But she leaves the window open to improvement, noting that companies such as The Container Store, Costco, Trader Joe’s and others have succeeded in creating a different kind of workplace.
Ultimately, there’s nothing new about Kelly’s message: Hourly associates and, ultimately, customers deserve better. That it still needs to be said is also depressing.