Signage, end-caps, and advertisements can all direct the c-store customer’s attention to different parts of the store. But you can’t buy something without seeing it, right? LEDs are taking this concept to the next level and using light to draw attention to the actual products in the display cases.
At the last NACS/PEI Show, LSI Industries Inc., based in Cincinnati, Ohio, introduced its new LED Refrigerated Case Lighting.
“Since LED began being developed as a light source about five or six years ago, the industry first looked to a new solution for cooler applications,” said Scott Ready, president of LSI Industries.
Why? Retailers and lighting companies who have been familiar with florescent fixtures in refrigeration for years knew that florescent does not like cooler temperatures.
“Because of that, you’re not going to get the best efficiency possible,” said Ready. “Its efficiency is diminished greatly.”
Also, because florescent based lighting in cooler applications are operating in a less than optimal environment, the maintenance of them will be going up.
“You’ll replace florescent lamps much more frequently,” he added.
On the contrary, LEDs love cold temperatures, thus, lasting generally two to four times longer. But Ready pointed out this all depends on a LED’s design, which varies greatly and affects it power and output.
Even though there are already lots of LED solutions for coolers, LSI decided to focus on the importance of that design.
“We wanted to understand the feedback coming from retailers with some of the earlier LED systems designed,” he said.
“One of the biggest complaints is that LEDs can produce a dark spot in the middle of the display case,” said Mark Reed, LSI Industries sales engineer. “We wanted to illuminate all the products across the case.”
Not only should good display lighting uniformly illuminate the products, but also be bright enough to stand out.
“The cooler lighting has to compete with the ambient lighting,” said Ready, and in a convenience store environment that is already brightly lit, this can be a challenge.
To have proper display case lighting, there are number of challenges to overcome.
“It’s a difficult task because you’re going across a 30 inch door and the product is only set back a few inches from the glass,” Reed said. If the brightness level and angling of the fixtures aren’t correct in this narrow space, then it can cause a glare and end up in customers’ eyes.
“Many of the LED products that are out there don’t know how to control the light coming from the LED,” said Reed.
In addition to all this, the lighting has to last and it has to be efficient.
“The best way to make your lighting more efficient is not to waste light coming from your fixtures,” said Ready.
“And if you’re seeing the light—that is, the light is in your eyes—it’s not on the product,” said Reed.
Traditionally, the biggest barrier to retailers changing their lighting to LED is the cost. However, Ready stresses that cost be evaluated in terms of ownership, considering more efficiency savings, less maintenance fees, and increases in sales.
In the petroleum market, the lighting can be important to use to attract customers to the cases. The brightness of the LEDs can bring out the” sparkle of the colors of cans and pop in bottles,” said Reed. LSI has used of its experiences in lighting jewelry cases, which uses LEDs to bring customers’ eyes to the product.
Additionally, LEDs can be more rugged. According to Reed, florescent lights use a larger fixture and when customers remove big products from coolers, like 12 packs of beer or pop, and they aren’t careful taking them out, they could do damage to the florescent.
“Which has an added risk because of the mercury used in those lights,” added Reed. The LED fixtures, on the other hand, stay flat and stay low; so, it’s out of the customer’s way.
Also, for retailers who think florescent lighting will stay cheaper, they might be in for a surprise.
“We expect the costs of florescents to increase rapidly because of the chemicals it uses are becoming more expensive and harder to get,” said Ready. Plus, disposal of these lights may become more of an issue because of the mercury in the product design. Right now, people generally throw away their florescent lights in the dumpster, but possible future legislation could require retailers to specially dispose of these lights, possibly even have to pay someone to take them away.
Another benefit Ready pointed out is that in some markets, the utility companies are offering rebates for retailers that install energy efficient lighting. The utilities are looking for ways to reduce the energy demand on their grids, giving an extra incentive to retailers considering changing to LEDs.