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HD lights up awareness in key category

Home Depot’s Bill Hamilton describes the future of lighting.

Bill Hamilton, merchandising VP electrical for the Home Depot, has a challenge on his hands. How do you explain simply and clearly the complicated changes taking place in the fast-changing category of light bulbs? 


There are already more than 100 energy-efficient bulb options on Home Depot shelves today, and a multiyear phaseout of incandescent bulbs will begin in January 2012. 


“We’re trying to make the messaging very, very simple,” Hamilton told HCN during a preview of new light bulb technologies that Home Depot hosted with a handful of vendors in a Manhattan hotel suite. “To tell the customer what the options are and what the benefits are.”


One of the key benefits is longer life. For instance, the majority of the stores’ LED assortment lasts at least 25,000 hours — that’s 23 to 46 years. At the same time, the quality has improved from the early days of squiggly CFLs. 


According to the retailer’s research, customers don’t understand the technology, let alone the legislation. And as the planet’s largest retailer of light bulbs, Home Depot is stepping into the role of guide and advocate, Hamilton said. “Customers are saying: Don’t make it difficult for me; don’t make me have to become an expert about lighting technology,” he said.


Last month’s Light Bulb Showcase 2012 took place in a hotel suite retrofitted with innovations from vendors Philips, Cree, TCP and Lutron. 


“We’re going to lead the way in this,” said Hamilton.