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Making the Switch

BY Marianne Wilson

The Black Dog Tavern is reducing its energy costs and carbon footprint while improving its customer experience with LED technology. The specialty retail and restaurant brand has upgraded the lighting in five stores (and its warehouse) to date, with more locations in the works.

Although Black Dog entered into the project with a primary goal of increasing energy savings, store aesthetics were also a priority. The company worked with Sylvania Lighting Services (SLS), which recommended replacing the existing lighting with energy-efficient Sylvania Ultra LED lamps. The lamps are designed to be a direct replacement for traditional sources.

The Black Dog store in Oak Bluffs, Mass., served as the test location, with SLS replacing 45-watt PAR lamps and 65-watt halogen floor lamps with Ultra PAR20 and PAR38 lamps, which use eight watts and 18 watts, respectively. The new lamps provided more flattering illumination for the store’s merchandise, while dramatically reducing energy use by almost half.

“After we installed the new lighting from Osram Sylvania in our Oak Bluffs store and got our first electricity bill, we were astounded. It was a fraction of what we were used to paying,” said Dan Pucillo, COO, The Black Dog Tavern, Vineyard Haven, Mass., which operates 19 stores.

Pucillo added that he noticed an improvement in the lighting quality, with the lamps providing better color rendering — and less heat — on the merchandise. Aside from the aesthetic and energy benefits, the lamps also provided cooler temperatures under the fixtures, which enhanced customer comfort and the overall customer experience.

Based on the successful results of the initial store, Black Dog and SLS completed retrofits of four additional locations. In addition, high-efficiency fluorescents were installed in some store stockrooms (Sylvania Octron T8) and in the company’s warehouse (Sylvania Pentron T5).

Across the upgraded locations, Black Dog experienced an average savings in energy consumption of about 45%. Energy use from lighting was reduced by 77,083 kWh, with 97,347 equivalent CO emissions averted annually. Along with energy savings and the environmental benefits, the retailer also stands to gain from reduced maintenance costs as the LED lamps last significantly longer than the halogen lamps they replaced.

Moving forward, Black Dog has decided to retrofit more of its stores to the LED lighting solution.

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Scaling Solar Nationwide

BY Joseph Roth

Sustainability is a cornerstone of home furnishings retailer Ikea, its brand and its business plan, reflecting the company’s Swedish heritage.

To move this value set forward, the company has identified a sustainability strategy with three focus areas: sustainability at home, energy and resource independence and bettering lives in communities. Solar energy and enhanced energy efficiency are core components of this energy independence program, functioning to reduce the company’s electricity costs and minimize its carbon footprint. With solar costs at an all-time low, installing systems atop most of the company’s U.S. locations not only reinforces the Ikea focus on sustainability, but also makes good business sense.

Ikea has the ambitious goal of powering 70% of its energy needs with renewables by 2015. In order to accomplish this, the company has allocated approximately $1.8 billion to renewable and solar investments through 2015. Already, Ikea has installed more than 160,000 panels in the United States. Electricity generated from these solar systems powers everything from electricity to elevators, restaurant refrigeration, air conditioning, lights, phones and security systems at large stores and distribution centers.

As partners for this initiative, Ikea has worked with five different solar integrators on various locations across the country, and is now well on its way to reaching a generating capacity of 38 MW of solar energy. One of the major installers partnering with Ikea, REC Solar, a nationwide commercial and residential solar installer, worked to develop 18 Ikea solar arrays in the United States — or 17.4 MW of clean solar power — across 12 states, ranging from California to Florida to Maryland and beyond.

With just these systems, Ikea will generate more than 700,000 MWh of clean electricity during the next 30 years, the equivalent of planting 2.3 million trees. Installing solar at this scale provides useful lessons learned that can be applied by other large-scale retailers looking to go solar at multiple locations.

CHALLENGES

Adapting to regional differences was a primary challenge met by REC Solar and the four other installers. Ikea solar projects range widely in size — from 500 kW to 3.4 MW — and are located in varying geographic locations with unique climatic characteristics, including snow, tropical storms and high winds.

REC Solar optimized system design for the particular climate of each region. For example, spacing between each row of solar panels was increased or decreased based upon the latitude of the site to ensure there is no shade from the panels in the row ahead of them (called inter-row shading).

In addition, spacing was increased in areas with heavy snowfall to allow for snow shoveling between rows, if needed. Systems constructed in areas close to the sea were built with additional layers of galvanization or aluminum to prevent corrosion from salty breezes. Finally, some systems’ inverters were located within a building or under a shade structure to protect them from the elements and to ensure longer operational life. Many of the same situations applied to the Ikea projects led by other installers as well.

HARDWARE CONCERNS

REC Solar and the other installers also focused on addressing specific site-related hardware concerns and delivering high-quality installations, while completing projects on time and on budget. For example, REC Solar developed the SnapNRack 450 Series, a hybrid ballasted and attached racking solution, specifically to minimize the roof penetrations required by Ikea system installations.

By working with solar integrators that flexibly implemented solutions to address rooftop design concerns, Ikea has ensured that every roof penetration is sealed and in good condition today across all 39 system locations — critical for reliable system performance over time.

COSTS

Installing solar at scale has cost advantages as well. Ordering in bulk for multiple large systems can help reduce overall solar portfolio costs and increase a retailer’s return on investment. Certain fixed costs do not change from system to system, even if the size of the project varies. These costs include pre- and post-roof-inspection fees, structural engineering fees, site mobilization fees and equipment rentals.

However, with larger systems, these fees can be spread out across more watts — lowering the overall cost per watt and improving payback. Repeating business with a qualified partner can also generate savings for systems large and small. Partners are able to simply replicate their project proposals and legal contracts for work, based on successes at previous installations, which reduces the paperwork and logistics of the system development process, and in turn decreases overall system costs. As a retailer committed to offering affordable prices to its customers, Ikea has a keen focus on lean operating costs. For this reason, a large solar energy portfolio seemed like a win-win approach.

The strong Ikea commitment to building a large solar portfolio has brought great advantages to the company’s project development process and store operations. Ikea has been able to reduce costs and streamline efficiency by applying the lessons learned at one system to the next project. Choosing a strategic partner that understands first-hand a company’s specific needs has proven highly advantageous. With a diverse array of solar systems in place, Ikea looks forward to a future with clean, reliable electricity that will accelerate its business and keep operating costs low, to the benefit of many loyal home-furnishing customers.

Joe Roth is public affairs director of Ikea USA.

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AT&T Store Design Gets a Customer-Focused Reboot

BY Marianne Wilson

It’s not what you see as much as what you don’t see that defines AT&T’s new store concept.

Noticeably missing from the prototype, which debuted in La Grange, Ill., are traditional counters, checkout registers and printed signage. Instead, the 3,200-sq.-ft. store offers an inviting, modern and interactive environment that is focused on the customer experience.

“From the open floor plan to learning and community tables where customers can play and explore, every element of our new store concept was made with our customers in mind — and the experience we wanted them to have once inside,” explained Paul Roth, AT&T president of retail sales and services, AT&T, in a blog post about the new design.

Conventional counters have been replaced by café-style tables where customers can sit with store associates. And checkouts have been replaced with a mobile point-of-sale system that allows associates to help customers anywhere in the store.

“We’ve tossed out the traditional sales stations and equipped our consultants with tablets,” Roth wrote. “This allows us to help customers from anywhere in the store. We are turning what used to be over-the-counter transactions into side-by-side interactions. If a customer requires some one-on-one time for more complex questions, we help them in the Solutions Center, which is designed to allow our consultants to have sit-down conversations with customers.”

In place of window banners, product brochures and other printed promotional materials, the store uses high-definition digital screens for engagement, education and brand content delivery. The screens are intended to immerse the customer in a sensory experience, even before they walk inside the space, while providing AT&T with the ultimate in merchandising flexibility.

“From information on the latest promotion to the hottest product or service, the screens can be updated with the push of a button,” Roth explained.

In addition to the screens, E-brochures of product and service information are displayed on tablets. The digital focus extends beyond the customers: Mobile planograms show employees how and where to stock shelves and pegs, allowing for real-time updates as well as a reduction in paper.

The new format will be rolled out to new and redesigned company-owned stores across the country, starting in the greater Cincinnati area. Designed to bring to life AT&T’s mission and brand vision while helping customers better understand technology, it incorporates many elements — scaled back for a smaller space — from the AT&T flagship on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue. These include a palette that blends warm woods with glossy-white, high-tech finishes and bold accents in the brand’s signature orange hue.

Other key elements of the design include the use of an open layout to encourage customer exploration, and flexible wall systems that provide the ultimate in design flexibility.

The layout highlights AT&T products and services in three distinct “zones” or departments:

The Connected Experience Zone includes lifestyle scenarios that provide shoppers with glimpses of how products/solutions are used in their everyday lives, spotlighting such categories as music, home security and entertainment.

The Community Zone features community tables where customers can play and explore apps, accessories and devices to see first-hand how they can all work together.

The Explore Zone allows customers to check out and demo the full lineup of AT&T devices and accessories.

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