It's not just cost savings driving John Lewis to go all-LED, it's quality of light

Department store chain John Lewis is on its way to installing more than 100,000 LED lights across its estate.

After working with LEDs for four years, the retailer says it has moved from looking at the cost savings of LED to the other benefits, such as quality of light.

It will now use LEDs for all new stores, and gradually replace traditional lighting in existing buildings. By the end of this year it expects to have installed 110,000 LED fittings – supplied by Edge Lighting, using Philips light sources, and by GE – in its John Lewis and Waitrose stores.

We’ve reached a place where LED outperforms traditional lighting at every level, so it’s about what's next"

Tony Jacob, John Lewis

‘At first it was about ensuring that LED could perform to the same level as traditional lighting,’ said Tony Jacob, head of construction, engineering and environment for John Lewis . ‘But now we’ve reached a place where LED outperforms traditional lighting at every level, so it’s about what's next. What are the opportunities and possibilities for LED that traditional lighting could never offer us? That is what’s exciting.’

When the company started looking closely at its carbon footprint in 2010, lighting in Waitrose stores accounted for around 25 per cent of each branch’s electricity costs, so upgrading to LED was an obvious step to take.

At first, the focus was on the financial and environmental benefits of LED. But it soon became clear that quality of the light was a big concern – and that saving energy could mean compromising on the customer experience.

LEDs needed to be able to provide the same quality of light as the metal halide lamps which have traditionally dominated retail. It’s taken time for John Lewis to strike that balance, and make sure that the management, the engineering teams and the store design teams are all happy.

Like many retailers, John Lewis first used LEDs in its fridges and freezers, because LEDs work so well in the cold. In 2012 it did its first front-of-house LED trial in a new Waitrose store in Bracknell, and for its next new store in Stratford-upon-Avon, used LED lighting for all the front-of-house areas, achieving a two-year payback.

By 2013 it was decided that LED lighting should become standard for all Waitrose stores. John Lewis stores were a different matter, as each store is designed to be different, and store layouts change by season, so new types of light fittings had to be developed before taking the LED plunge.

In 2013 John Lewis opened a new store in Ipswich – the first outlet to be all-LED not just in the public areas but also in the warehouse, storage and service areas as well, resulting in big energy reductions and costs savings.

At the John Lewis York store that opened in 2014, the store design team had chosen much darker flooring and wall coverings, which pushed the LED technology to its limits. ‘York is still a great space, customers love it, but as engineers and designers we learnt a lot about the capability of LED when used with darker materials,’ said Toby Marlow, engineering manager for John Lewis. ‘However, the technology has already moved on and if we were doing York today we’d use a different specification. ‘In a relatively short space of the time the LED product has improved massively. The light is crisper, the technology is more reliable and the capital costs are now lower than traditional lighting on a like-for-like basis.’

Marlow said of the Philips Crisp White technology used in the luminaires: ‘We’ve done our test of the Crisp White LED and we believe that delivers 14 per cent more white light than existing LEDs while being about 11 per cent cheaper to install and reducing energy consumption by 15 per cent.’

‘Lighting makes a big difference to the ambience of a store,’ said Ken MacDonald, duty manager at Waitrose Ipswich, ‘There are very few areas that are shady and the customer offer is enhanced. We’ve had very good feedback, with people saying the store looks absolutely fantastic.’

The company will be installing LED lighting in its new stores in Birmingham, followed by Horsham and Basingstoke. The rollout in existing stores will begin with Southampton and continue with the flagship Oxford Street branch.

Tim Harrison, director of store formats for John Lewis, said: ‘We have been really pleased with results of LED lighting and that's why we are putting our faith in it when it comes to Birmingham.’

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