Federal efficiency regulations have spurred change in the light bulb industry, and that is good news for hardware dealers whose expertise can set them apart and help grow market share.
Nate Jones, store manager at Yoder's Shipshewana Hardware, Shipshewana, Ind., is seeing that firsthand. Since a Do it Best reset in February, the 36-ft. lighting aisle at Yoder's has illuminated in more ways than one. "I don't have exact sales numbers yet since the reset, but we have done really well with the assortment," he said. "It makes it look like we are in the business of selling light bulbs. The reset was fabulous."
The category is no longer as simple as buying a package of 60- or 100-watt incandescents off the shelf. What's forcing widespread changes in lighting is the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The law leaves three alternate technologies for most residential lighting: halogen incandescents, CFLs and LEDs — all of which are more efficient than old-style bulbs while lasting up to 50 times longer.
Because of the influx of CFLs and now LEDs, the light bulb category is no longer a commodity, said Do it Best CEO Bob Taylor. "This gives the independents a great chance to remerchandise the category, educate your staff and capture a bigger segment of that business. And I think it's going to be a more profitable business, too."
Following his store's reset, Jones marked down his remaining incandescents by 50%, "just to get it out of here," he said. His lighting aisle consists mainly of CFLs and halogens, with about 2 ft. of LED bulbs.
Jones said the trend of energy-efficient, longer-lasting, albeit more expensive, light bulbs has changed the conversation in his store and given his salespeople a chance to educate the shoppers. "It's not just about attractive displays that we put up — it's about understanding the new language," he said. "You can't talk about watts anymore; it's lumens that we talk about. Kelvins is another conversation piece, because we are talking about color temperature. There's a whole new way of thinking."
And shopping, as customers accustomed to choosing 60- and 100-watt bulbs now look for "equivalent" bulbs that determine similar light outputs for incandescent, CFL and LED bulbs. This smorgasbord of shapes, styles, output, color temperature and energy dovetails perfectly for the smart hardware store. "It's defi