We recently surveyed our readers to find out, among other things, what categories of product they would need most in anticipation of an upswing in business. Not surprisingly, energy-efficient lighting was cited as a key category by a majority of respondents (67.8 percent). But I was not prepared for the overwhelming interest in LEDs, with more than three-fourths of respondents saying they would need more LED inventory.
Of course, LEDs continue to be big news as more vendors incorporate the technology into their lines. Lumen output has improved, expanding the applications available. Having long been comfortable with non-white LEDs already, the commercial market has readily embraced these advances and, with its high consumption volume, reaps immediate benefits from the cost savings and convenience. I just wasn’t sure that consumers understood enough about LEDs as a light source yet to seek them out in a significant scale, especially as their initial price remains a factor.
I’m encouraged that lighting retailers feel ready to take the lead on the LED front. Given the absence of a speed limit on the information superhighway, customer curiosity about LED lighting stands to spread faster than that for CFLs, which had a bit of an image problem to overcome due to decades of institutional fluorescent tubes with poor color rendering. Plus, LED’s point-source attributes allow it to go where fluorescent still looks strange. Legislation could accelerate the process, with California’s Title 20 set to go into effect in January and a similar federal bill going before the U.S. Senate next month.
The California Lighting Technology Center estimates that fully 58 percent of the lamping in the state’s new homes in 2007 was fluorescent versus incandescent, thanks in large part to Title 24. And in the residential market overall, compact fluorescent’s footprint has grown from 1 percent of California’s total installed stock in 2000 to 15 percent in 2007. Given a growth track like that, plus the potential carrots (lower energy bills, utility rebates) and sticks (government mandates), stores are smart to stock up on energy savers. It’s not just a matter of having the right merchandise on hand for when traffic picks up again; it may be the very thing that brings business back our way.