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Greetings from LIGHTFAIR 2019 – Part 1

Greetings from LIGHTFAIR 2019 – Part 1

Distributors share their impressions of Lightfair 2019 — the “Big Kahuna” of annual lighting shows.


From the latest in high-efficiency LED innovations to connected lighting, architectural designs, niche products, user-friendly controls and more, LIGHTFAIR 2019 was a bonanza of colors, form factors, and features across the dynamic field of illumination.  But if you weren’t among the 20,000+ people who attended the 30th anniversary of North America’s largest annual lighting trade show – held from May 19-23 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia – or weren’t one of the over 550 manufacturers who exhibited there (60 of whom were exhibiting for the first time), no worries.

In the following Part 1 of a special two-part series, lightED invited three attendees – Charles Dix, lighting segment manager at Cottage Grove, MN-based Werner Electric (www.wernermn.com), Robert (“Bud”) Belviso, lighting designer at the Tinton Falls, NJ-based Lighting Design Center at Warshauer Electric (www.warshauerlightingdesign.com) and Stephen Shepps, LC, construction solutions manager at Harrisburg, PA-based Schaedler Yesco Distribution (www.sydist.com) – to share their impressions of last week’s show, its highlights and lowlights, and what they took away from the show that will impact their business.


lightED: Did anything make the show better (or worse) than last year?

Dix: The education courses offered this year were, in my opinion, more relevant and topical. The courses on lighting in healthcare and controls were very informative and both of these are topics that our customers are looking to us for guidance in as lighting experts. Lightfair continues to improve on the education it provides; having courses that go for 90 or 180 minutes allows for a deeper dive into the topics and enhances our expertise in the area.

Belviso: We go to Lightfair every two years when the event is on the East Coast. This year, the booth designs were very well thought out and, for the most part, did a good job of grabbing your attention.

Shepps: The location was the biggest improvement for me. Philly is a much better location than Chicago; most hotels and offsite vendor activities were in walking distance of the Convention Center.


lightED: Are manufacturers keeping distributors in mind when they’re designing new products?

Dix: To some extent they are, but the main emphasis is on the end user. Many manufacturers are offering switchable lumen output fixtures, which give end users greater flexibility while also reducing the number of SKUs a distributor has to stock, but ultimately, I think that ALL manufactures think first about the consumer when designing their products. For our industry, the continued rapid rate of product development and re-design ultimately make it challenging for any distributor to keep the right product on the shelf at the right price.

Belviso: There are many great solutions for lighting every environment and I feel that the vendors that get it right (including Juno, USAI, Sonneman, and many others) are very tuned in to distributors’ needs for their customers.

Shepps: Yes, I believe that a lot of the new switchable lumen and switchable color temperature products are designed to help distributors reduce SKUs; however, a majority of them are coming at a premium that most customers won’t pay because they want a specific lumen output or color temperature anyway.


lightED: Were you particularly impressed by anything you saw at Lightfair?

Dix: I was especially impressed with the home automation products in lighting that were shown. Acuity launched its JUNO AI line and Eaton Lighting introduced additional products for its HALO home. It seems clear to me that home automation will drive people to demand the same level of lighting control at their place of work and beyond. As we continue to move towards the world of IoT and AI, we’ll want products that have those capabilities as standard upgrades for future-proofing.

Belviso: In particular, I was very impressed with USAI – their display and their staff members who presented were terrific. As a very forward-thinking company for recessed lighting, USAI offers many solutions for areas that were heretofore difficult to light by using very shallow housing for tight spaces, great interchangeable optics, and enabling very easy access to all parts of the housing without disturbing the ceiling plane (thus avoiding repair). Also, Sonneman has some of the best LED lighting I’ve seen.

Shepps: Yes. Specifically, Acuity’s 3D SPanl is very innovative and makes great use of the flat panel in multiple applications. Keystone’s Smart Port is a great approach to using plug & play microwave, PIR, and photocell sensors in their LED-HID retrofit lamps. Lutron’s HXL and Cree’s Cadiant both seemed like great next steps towards true human-centric or circadian lighting systems. And finally, I believe that LEDVANCE’s UltraLED Driverless High Bay is the first of the next trend of AC-direct LED fixtures, eliminating the weakest link (the driver).


lightED: In your opinion, did you see too many “complicated” products and is lighting becoming too complicated to sell? (e.g., with connected lighting, smart lighting, LiFi, etc., are we at the point where we have too many bells and whistles to easily sell these products?)

Dix: What I saw at Lightfair for business and home lighting is the continued drive towards simplification. The new JUNO-AI does away with phone apps and simply uses an Amazon ECHO product integrated into the fixture to control the lighting features, which is something many Americans are already accustomed to using on a daily basis. They still offered the traditional dimmer/on-off switches, but by incorporating ECHO AI into the lighting controls, you simply remove all of the complicated set-up and scheduling processes. Even the whole-building control systems are getting smarter and more intuitive for the end user.

Belviso: Since most people are very app savvy, the smart home is really a no-brainer. Most of the programming is intuitive and non-threatening to use. It’s the lighting designer’s job to show how these products can enhance and benefit the end user’s daily life.

Shepps: I do believe that in the new reality of the smart home, things are getting complicated – e.g., determining what works with what and then integrating it all into one cohesive system is a challenge. But I look at that as an opportunity for contractors and distributors to become the experts and offer integration as a service.


Tune in next Monday, June 10, as our experts continue their review of Lightfair 2019 with thoughts on the lighting industry’s investment in this year’s show, the presence of offshore exhibitors, and whether Lightfair 2019 met their expectations.


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Susan Bloomis a 25-year veteran of the lighting and electrical products industry. Reach her at susan.bloom.chester@gmail.com.

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