A B.C. business shares its money-saving tips. Hint, hint: they have to do with lighting

Don Ferster, owner of Jim’s Clothes Closet – a small, successful men’s clothing retailer on Vancouver Island – knows that upgrading to...

Don Ferster, owner of Jim’s Clothes Closet – a small, successful men’s clothing retailer on Vancouver Island – knows that upgrading to longer-lasting and more energy-efficient lights is one of the best ways he can save money on his BC Hydro bill. In fact, in B.C., lighting makes up about 48 per cent of a small retailer’s monthly energy consumption.*

That’s why Ferster has completed lighting upgrades at three stores in five years: the first at his flagship store in Port Alberni, the second at his store in Courtenay, and, most recently, the third at his Campbell River location. “Finding little ways to save money is how a small business stays[LW1]  in business,” says Ferster. Those are wise words from a veteran retailer.

“When I decided to open a store in Campbell River, I visited a handful of potential locations and made a point of looking closely at the lights in each location,” says Ferster. He had a checklist. Were the lights energy efficient? If not, how out of date were the lights and fixtures? Would they be easy to replace? How long would an upgrade take? “Once you know who to talk to and the right questions to ask, completing a small lighting upgrade is pretty straightforward,” Ferster points out.

In the end, he decided on a 2,000-square-foot store with halogen lights, but lots of natural daylight. He knew he would eventually upgrade to LEDs, which are two to three times more energy efficient than halogens. Daylighting practices helped sustain Ferster and his team through the summer months, but once fall arrived, the store fell dark. “It was a bit too dark for retail,” comments Ferster. Then, like clockwork, the store’s halogen lights started to burn out.

“Burnt-out light bulbs are a pet peeve of mine,” says Ferster with a smile. “So when my store manager mentioned that the halogen bulbs were burning out left, right and centre, I decided to get the ball rolling and redo the lights.”

The lighting upgrade in Campbell River was straightforward and one that a lot of retailers could do: Ferster replaced 124 halogen bulbs with LED bulbs. The lighting installation took 10 days and the upgrade qualified the store for a $1,562 Power Smart rebate. The rebate, combined with a projected annual cost savings of $1,780 per year, give Ferster an estimated payback period of just nine months. It’s a solid return on investment, as far as he’s concerned.

Does he have any words of encouragement for other small business owners in B.C.? Ferster pauses momentarily, then says, “When it comes to lighting, I would encourage small business owners to make time to assess their business’ lighting situation. It pays in the long run.”

* Marbek Resource Consultants Ltd. (2007, Nov). Conservation Potential Review.