Use ‘the best products you can afford’ says Next’s Peter Bowman

As one of the first major high street brands to embrace LEDs, Next has spent around £4m on the technology.

But the company’s national shopfitting manager Peter Bowman told the Retail Lighting and Energy Conference this morning: ‘You can’t go into LED really quickly. You have to approach it very cautiously.’

Next had independent tests carried out on all the products the company was interested in, and Bowman said: ‘It’s interesting to note that a lot of the claims made [by manufacturers] were false. That’s why you’ve got to be cautious.’

Having run a trial at a Leicester store in 2008, Bowman says he was impressed from a maintenance and energy perspective. ‘In terms of maintenance there have been virtually nil failures, which is almost unbelievable,’ he said.

Colour rendering and appearance is sometimes a concern with LEDs, but Bowman says that the new lamps have, if anything, led to an improvement in appearance. ‘It’s important not to wreck it from a customer viewpoint,’ he says. ‘But it looks fine, and in some respects it’s been an improvement.’

The rollout will be complete this May and Bowman regards the fact that ‘nobody really talks about it’ as a good thing – the idea was not to change the lit effect.

He does add, however, a note of caution when it comes to choosing manufacturer or partner companies. ‘We kept to people we knew and trusted,’ Bowman says. ‘I’d be terrified to do a whole rollout with people we didn’t know.’

‘Yes, warranties are important,’ he adds. ‘But it comes down to trust. You need to deal with people who want to look after your company. And a lot of the claims made by the LED manufacturers are false.’ His advice? Test, test, test.

Bowman calculates the resulting energy savings in terms of electricity usage across the estate to be somewhere around 25 to 30 per cent – and for lighting specifically the savings were significantly higher. ‘Now that we have a variety of LED types in store, over the next year or two, I’ll be keeping a close eye on things.’

He recommends using ‘the best products you can afford’, given the risks involved in a large-scale move to LED. ‘It can be a very scary proposition,’ he admits.

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