- Meijer announced plans to transition interior lighting in its stores to all LED by 2021 — a move that is expected to reduce the company's electrical use for lighting by as much as 50% each year.
- The four-year retrofit project kicked off in June with the company's more than 100 Michigan stores. Meijer will phase in LED lighting in other locations state-by-state, and plans to keep stores open during installation.
- Since 2005, Meijer has reduced energy usage in stores by 25% per square foot, according to a news release. All Meijer stores have been built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for more than a decade. In 2014, Meijer partnered with GE Lighting to expand its selection of energy-efficient light bulbs, and added displays educating customers about the benefits of LED tech.
Not only is LED better for the environment, but it is a highly energy efficient way to light space. Residential LEDs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting, according to the U.S. Energy Department. By 2027, widespread use of LED lighting could reduce energy use by the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants with a total savings exceeding $30 billion at current electricity prices.
In addition to helping the bottom line, a switch to sustainable measures is great for marketing. With millennials the largest U.S. consumer block and sustainability high on their list of spending priorities, it makes sense for grocers to step up their green efforts.
Meijer is not the first retailer to recognize this. Other grocers, too, are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Giant Food Stores and Martin’s Food Markets fueling stations, for example, asked sustainability expert GreenPrint to develop carbon-offset projects for its fuel centers, such as planting trees or creating local greenscapes. The grocery chains, part of Ahold Delhaize, say these efforts could reduce carbon emissions by nearly a third.
As for keeping the lights on, LED lighting manufacturers say they’re seeing more and more retailers invest in their solutions, although many still prefer fluorescent lighting. But grocers are rethinking their reluctance as LED technology improves. Recent innovations include built-in sensors that allow retailers to track store traffic, lighting that can further accentuate the color of certain products and fixtures that are easier to move.
What’s more, LED lights may lead to higher sales. In 2010, Dutch researchers lit half of a supermarket with LED lights, the other half with traditional fluorescent lights, and then tracked sales over 21 weeks. The researchers found that the LED-lit portion of the store sold 2% more products per customer over the study period. It could be that high-quality lighting can make products appear fresher and more attractive. LED lights, which used to give off a pallid glow, now offer warmer, more vibrant shades of light. Recent innovations have made them cheaper, more energy efficient and easier to install and remove.
Even frozen foods cases, which account for around half of supermarkets’ energy usage, are now incorporating LED lights. In addition to saving money, research shows LEDs provide more stable lighting in cold environments.
At a time when margins are razor thin, it makes economic sense for retailers to invest now to save on energy costs later, especially if LED lighting enhances their products and leads customers to buy more. However, as more and more businesses and homeowners make the switch to LED, consumers are increasingly likely to see this as an expected move rather than something that makes a company stand out.