Retrofit That Gets Results

by Nate Hunter
By John Dombrowski

Walgreens finds the perfect prescription for an enhanced customer experience while minimizing energy consumption.

For a company that has been around practically as long as the light bulb itself, it comes as no surprise that Walgreens — the nation’s largest drugstore chain — is also leading the movement to use LED lighting systems for cooler doors, sales floor, parking lot and pharmacy applications.

As Walgreens’ director of energy and sustainability, Menno Enters, explains, the tangible and measurable impact of LED lighting makes the eventual transition inevitable. “Approximately 25% of the total energy spend for all of Walgreens is on lighting,” says Enters. “So, it is easy to see why we want to be one of the first chains to make the switch to a smart lighting alternative.”

To determine the viability of an LED retrofit, Enters targeted a 15,900-square-foot Walgreens store in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. The store was built in 1999 and was equipped with traditional fluorescent sales floor fixtures, and metal halide fixtures in the exterior soffits. Incandescents were used in the coolers and freezers. Because of its size and age, the store was considered an ideal candidate for an LED retrofit.

“The Buffalo Grove LED retrofit can help Walgreens shape its long term plans for retrofitting stores nationwide,” says Enters. “It is our first all-LED retrofit, with both indoor and outdoor replacements. It is a huge test with dramatic results.”

Setting Retrofit Expectations

Walgreens pharmacyA variety of LED  solutions were selected to illuminate the store — from the sales floor and pharmacy, down to the building wall-mounts and pendant lighting.

Throughout the sales floor, Walgreens installed high performance volumetric recessed LED luminaires. Ideal for uplight and downlight retrofit applications, LED strip lights built on the compact, low-profile Z strip channel were installed in the vestibule for a long maintenance-free life. Additionally, high performance recessed LED downlights were installed in the pharmacy for a more architectural appeal. LED lamps were installed in track lighting throughout the facility. Walgreens also installed LED luminaires in the back stock room. On the building exterior, LED luminaires were used for energy savings and quality illumination.

The lighting renovation was completed in several stages, allowing the store to remain open the entire time and, therefore, productive during the entire retrofit installation.

With the job now complete, Enters has started assessing results. “The improved light quality gives our customers a more comfortable shopping experience,” Enters says. “It is a very natural light that reduces eye strain for customers and employees alike.”

Retrofit in Retrospect

Initial lighting renovation analysis confirms the LED retrofit is helping Walgreens reduce energy and maintenance costs. Additionally, Walgreens expects a positive impact on customer experience and employee performance.

Walgreens Panoramic“The LED lighting is exceeding our expectations,” says Enters. “Regarding maintenance, we generally rely on a routine monthly service call to each store to assess and replace lighting, but with the LEDs, we have already shifted to an ‘as-needed only’ service call basis, which to date, hasn’t been necessary. Our maintenance requirement dropped to nearly zero overnight.”

The LED retrofit installation has saved Walgreens on maintenance expenses and added to the aesthetic appeal of the store, while providing a more comfortable working environment for employees. 

“We wanted our customers to notice a comfortable, more upscale look, and we wanted a smooth visual transition from the parking lot into the store. Likewise, since we had previously upgraded our lighting to highly efficient fluorescent lamps, our primary goal was to reduce energy consumption, and we have done that,” says Enters.

“As we fine tune our lighting design using LED fixtures, we will be able to reduce energy consumption even further and create a more visually appealing environment,” adds Enters. “LED lighting systems lend themselves extremely well to retail applications and we are very happy with the results.” 

— John Dombrowski, director of retail corporate accounts for Acuity Brands Lighting, has more than 16 years of experience in the lighting industry. He has worked closely with many large retailers — including Walgreens, SuperValu, Target, Kohl’s, CVS, Best Buy and Walmart — on a variety of lighting solutions from indoor and outdoor lighting to LED lighting. Email the author at [email protected].

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