Getting Smart With Lighting
With ‘intelligent design’ emerging as yet another buzz phrase in an industry full of them, Chain Store Age talked with Jim Crowcroft about how TCP incorporates smart design into its lighting products and projects, as well as what hot lighting trends he is seeing for 2013.
What do you see as the main elements of intelligent lighting design?
I would say intelligent design involves a thorough application of useful, advanced technology to deliver real-world operational improvements, but within a value-based innovation model at its core. Our engineers and designers realize that to make a successful product, you must consider optimizing product design elements in order to improve aesthetics, economics, performance and value elements, plus deliver solid solutions that improve bottom-line performance, as well as excite and impress the end user.
What are some trends you’re seeing in energy-efficient lighting for retail?
By far, the hottest trend right now is the rapid adoption of new solid-state lighting alternatives (LED lighting) across the wide spectrum of all retailing categories. In 2011, LED lighting really "came of age," as products began to meet and exceed the performance levels of incumbent technologies (incandescent, halogen and HID lighting), while at the same time we saw the prices of these new LED products tumble. Industry experts project a continued double-digit growth curve in LED lighting over the next 10 to 20 years, as it is expected this technology will rapidly overtake many traditional lighting applications. LED offers many inherent benefits: long service life, improved color rendition, excellent lumen (light) output, reduced heat load and, of course, significantly reduced overall energy consumption.
Today, LEDs already outperform most other lighting choices in key retailer-use categories, such as specialty and directional lamps, as well as in severe-duty and outdoor lighting applications. And LEDs offer an almost infinitely flexible variety of design possibilities and packaging alternatives, for uses in area lighting, task lighting, display lighting and facility and outdoor lot lighting.
What retail categories are ahead of the curve in lighting, in your opinion, and which are some of the laggards?
Although I have witnessed LED lighting adoption by retailers in most all categories, it seems the largest department stores and some major specialty products (high-end clothing) retailers are moving forward with large-scale facility conversion projects. Another segment that is embracing new lighting technology is the convenience store/fuel distribution segment. I believe this retailer group saw advantages of energy efficiency, durability and reduced maintenance as key reasons for adopting LEDs.
Also, luxury goods retailers are quickly installing LED lighting in their display cabinetry and other special applications, such as cove lighting and accent lighting applications. On the other end of the scale, I have seen slower adoption from specialty retailers (mall stores, general merchandise stores) that are clinging to traditional halogen/HID and fluorescent lighting technology. Many have expressed concerns over high initial costs (LEDs can cost three to 10 times more up front) and inferior lumen (light) output in some applications where LEDs have not yet been able to deliver comparable overall light output.
Specific to TCP, where are your areas of focus this year?
TCP will continue expanding our directional LED lighting product line, adding new applications and additional options across the broad spectrum of products. We will release new-and-improved specialty lamp varieties, such as omnidirectional (A-Lamp) types and decorative specialty lamps, with improved dimming and best-in-class lumen output. We are also adding new integrated fixture LED lighting products and components for this rapidly expanding category. Our new product releases will encompass new application categories, such as interior area lighting fixtures, exterior fixtures and lighting retrofit kits.
Another area of innovation is the emergence of remotely controlled lighting, which promises to integrate Internet accessibility to facility operations through smart technology. TCP is leading the development of new IP (Internet-Protocol) enabled lighting technology across all applications of lighting and lighting control devices.
Criminal Background Checks
The use of criminal background checks by employers is being closely watched.
Concerns that convictions among African Americans and Hispanics were causing hiring discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Council has issued new guidelines regarding employer use of criminal records under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the Pew Center on the States 2010 study, while one in every 87 white men in America have been incarcerated, among Hispanics it is 1-in-36 and blacks it is 1-in-12.
Some experts say that abiding by the updated guidelines can be tricky for retailers. Thomas L. McCally, a labor attorney at Carr Maloney in Washington, D.C, described the 57-page document as "clear as mud" in a presentation during the National Retail Federation Convention’s 102nd Convention & Expo in New York City.
McCally stressed that the new guidelines present suggestions, and not rules or regulations. But if the EEOC detects hiring activities that arguably violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin — it intends to pursue legal action. In the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013-2016, it presents a litigation agenda regarding the misuse of criminal background checks.
"Retailers," McCally said, "are in direct target because of their large numbers of hires." The EEOC has indicated it is on the lookout for individual cases that could be broadened to class actions or systemic violations.
Under the new guidelines, arrest inquiries are generally not allowed.
"In most cases, employers cannot consider the arrest record of a job applicant," McCally said.
As the EEOC points out — being arrested does not make one guilty. However, there are exceptions that retailers could use as a defense, such as the underlying behavior that caused the arrest. It must be considered in the context of the events that occurred and how that behavior would impact qualifications for the specific job. An example, according to McCally, would be if the arrest was for sexual misconduct and the job was for a daycare center.
Conviction records must be weighed with caution.
"You cannot say, ‘If you have a criminal conviction we won’t hire you.’ There is no longer a blanket exception," McCally said.
In fact, in the guidelines, the EEOC recommends "that employers not ask about convictions on job applications and that, if and when they make such inquiries, the inquiries be limited to convictions for which exclusion would be job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity."
As a best practice, the EEOC says employers should conduct individualized assessments. Three things to be considered are: the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct, the time that has passed and conduct since the offense, and how it applies to the nature of job sought.
"This gives the individual an opportunity to explain and an opportunity to go deeper into the matter," McCally explained.
McCally advised retailers to stay tuned to their state and local ‘Ban the Box’ laws, which prohibit conviction questions on applications. Federal legislation has also been introduced in the Congress — H.R. 6220 — to eliminate questions about criminal history on applications.
To stay in accord with the laws, McCally emphasized, "The burden is on you, the employer."
Laura Klepacki is a contributing editor to Chain Store Age.
Under the new guidelines, arrest inquiries are generally not allowed.
Focus on: Slip and Fall
Slip-and-fall accidents in public places, including retail stores, are the leading cause of premise liability injuries and rank among facilities managers’ top management issues. And with the elderly particularly vulnerable to falls, the size and scope of the problem is likely to grow in the near future given the aging of the baby boomers.
Statistics from major insurance firms detail the problem. Slip-and-fall injuries are the leading source of general liability claims incurred by CNA policyholders in the real estate sector. (CNA is one of the country’s largest commercial insurance writer and the 13th largest property and casualty company.)
Experts say that retailers can lower their risk of slip-and-fall incidents by selecting high-traction flooring when building new stores and remodeling existing facilities. Indeed, according to CNA, using materials with proven high-traction characteristics is one of the most cost-effective ways to avoid slip-and-fall issues related to hard floors. Since texture, to a great degree, determines a floor’s slip resistance, floors with abrasives in their surface can be very slip-resistant, even when wet. Soft surfaces, such as carpet, are also safe with regard to slip and fall.
According to Russell Kendzior, founder of the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), the most tractable flooring choice is polished concrete.
"Polished concrete offers one of the highest levels of traction and is very consistent," he said.
It’s worth noting that all floors can become less tractable if cleaned with the wrong products. Some products, for example, can deposit a slippery sheen. Retailers are advised to select floor treatment, cleaning and maintenance products with proven slip-resistance characteristics that are compatible with the particular flooring surface. (For a list of products certified by the NFSI, go to nfsi.org).
MATS: Many retailers rely on entranceway mats to prevent dirt, water and other materials from being tracked into the store and to help reduce the risk of slip and fall. It’s important that stores use the right type of matting and provide for proper inspections and maintenance, all of which are detailed in the recently published ANSI/NFSI B101.6 entrance mat standard.
"In the past, there were no standards for the use, selection, inspections and maintenance of entrance mats, but today there is and retailers need to be aware of them," Kendzior said.
With regard to the thickness of mats, the rule (ADA, ASTM and the like) is that the mats be less than 1/4-in. in height and have a beveled edge to which most entranceway mats on the market comply, he added.
In order to avoid trip hazards, mats should be firmly secured to prevent migration. They should also be frequently inspected to ensure they have not buckled or curled.
Kendzior also recommends the use of entranceway walk-off tile, which is installed flush with the surface of the floor. This option is a little more expensive, he acknowledged, but it adds up to small change compared with the average slip-and-fall claim of just over $5,000 (and that’s for someone who doesn’t require medical attention). And, he added, the costs are usually paid off in a year or two, since there are no more rental costs, and claims for slips and falls are reduced or eliminated.