Last year, Light Bulbs Unlimited -
which operates eight specialty retail outlets in Florida, including stores in North Miami Beach, South Miami, Boca Raton, Palm-Beach and two in Orlando – celebrated its 25th anniversary.
"Over the past five years, manufacturers have been continually changing the kinds of light bulbs they put in their products like fixtures," says Jorge Fernandez, manager of the company's North Miami Beach store and a 10-year Light Bulbs Unlimited veteran. " And not all big box stores or other retailers carry all of those kinds of specialty bulbs. That's where we come in. We're a place for all kinds of customers that have very unique needs. We're the place where they know they can have their needs met and find exactly what they're looking for."
Precisely because lighting technology has become so varied and complex, the time-tested expertise of Light Bulbs Unlimited means even customers who don't know exactly what they need or only have partial information about a product can find what they're looking for. "That is something we deal with on a daily basis," Fernandez says. "Sometimes we don't even see a picture or get an accurate description or a product number for what a person needs. But through a series of questions, because our salespeople are very well trained, our customers come to know they can depend on our expertise."
Among the 10,000 individual products the Deerfield Beach-based company stocks, the specialty tungsten and fluorescent bulbs used in lighting equipment for photography and film or video production rank high in popularity. "Those kinds of bulbs are relatively rare in retail stores,"Fernandez says. "And there are different kinds of codes that must be used to identify things like wattage or the spectrum of light that the bulbs put out. We carry those kinds of products and know which ones are right for which applications."
Yet another example is LED lighting, one of the fastest-growing categories in the market. "Not only has that market exploded over the last few years, but it will continue to explode," Fernandez says. "Because of that, we've taken it upon ourselves to educate ourselves and to provide a wide variety of different kinds of LED lights. We carry a much wider variety of LED bulbs than you can find anywhere else."
Even more important than the company's impressive inventory, however, is its customer service. "That is the number-one thing that sets us apart from our competition," Fernandez says proudly. "Our stores are not 'big box' stores. They're smaller in scale and that allows our customers to have a one-on-one experience with a well-trained salesperson who is an expert in the lighting business."
By the same token, Light Bulbs Unlimited strives to create a relaxing shopping experience in a peaceful environment. "If people just want to come in and walk around and look at a lot of different kinds of lighting fixtures, they can feel very comfortable that they won't be pressured. And because of the range of products we carry and the expertise we have, they can also know that when they're ready to make a purchase, we have exactly what they're looking for. And you're not going to find that at a Home Depot or Walmart."For more information, call 1.888.452.8662 or visit 1974 N.E. 163rd Street, N. Miami Beach, or lbulighting.com.
The traditional 100-wattlight bulb is being phased out, and consumers are confused about what to buy as a replacement for the iconic household item.
Now there's more time to prepare for the change and more chance for confusion. The ban on the conventional 100-watt bulb was supposed to start Jan. 1, but after congressional action late last week, it won't take effect until Sept. 30 .
That's because the last-minute deal to avert a government shutdown included a provision that prevents the Department of Energy from spending money to implement or enforce the new standards for light bulbs. The federal law passed in 2007 will prohibit the import or manufacture of the 100-watt incandescent bulb, which sells for about 60 cents. After Sept. 30, retailers can sell their inventory until it runs out. "Most people don't know what's going on," said Pedro Villagran, manager of Light Bulbs Unlimited in West Palm Beach. "I have people coming in who are freaking out. Some people think all bulbs will no longer be available." Many people think the only replacement for the conventional bulb is the twisty-style, more energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulb, or CFL, which sells for $3 or less. But that's not true, Villagran said. He recommends a 75-watt halogen incandescent bulb in the $4 to $6 range that is designed to last twice as long as a standard bulb. The phaseout is expected to continue in 2013 with the 75-watt bulb, and in 2014 the 60-watt and 40-watt traditional incandescents will be discontinued.
The U.S. Department ofEnergy predicts that the end of the standard incandescent will save consumers close to $6 billion a year on energy costs. Manufacturers are required to produce bulbs that are 30 percent more energy-efficient. There's some apparent hoarding by those who love the standard bulb and, in some cases, hate the "spiral". People who manage estates in Palm Beach have bought as many as 360 100-watt bulbs at a time recently, Villagran said. "The incandescent bulb is so familiar, they just don't want to give that up. They are afraid of the CFLs, due to mercury. It's a valid concern", Villagran said. CFLs contain smallamounts of highly toxic mercury and are supposed to be disposed of at a specific site, not just thrown into a garbage can. If a bulb breaks, special steps must be taken to clean it up, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are another pricier choice. They cost $20 to $70 a bulb and are rated for 25,000 to 50,000 hours. Manufacturers are introducing more alternatives. GE, for example, has come out with a domed CFL that resembles a traditional bulb's shape. "It helps consumers who are concerned about breakage," said Kyle Pitsor, vice president for government relations at the National Electrical Manufacturers Association in Rosslyn, Va.
At the Home Depot inWest Palm Beach last week, shoppers paced in front of an array of light bulbs, trying to figure out which to buy. "I'm perplexed," said Tim Moore, a West Palm Beach retiree. "Do you buy the new type of bulbs or do you stick with the old ones?" Helene Lorentzen of Palm Beach picked up a pack of 60-watt incandescent bulbs and said she wasn't aware of the approaching changes. However, she said she already uses the "squigglies" and previously bought the domed type for her children's rooms. Patricia Dejean of WestPalm Beach reached quickly for a four-pack of CFLs. "I'm a student," she said. "I leave the lights on all night studying. This saves me a little bit, and I don't have to replace the bulbs as often." Her daughter Karen Dejean, 10, said she learned about CFLs in class at Westgate Elementary School.
"The CFLs last longer," Karen said. "They feel warm. The other kind are hot and sting your hands. They don't last long because the filament breaks." Such incandescent specialty bulbs as three-way bulbs, appliance bulbs, color bulbs and candelabra bulbs will still be available and are not included in the phase-out. That's because those bulbs account for a small percentage of sales, said Larry Lauck, vice president of communication for the American Lighting Association in Dallas. Consumers have more to consider than what type of bulb to buy. Some bulbs produce a brighter, whiter light than others, which produce a more yellowish light. "The good news is you will have a lot more choices," Lauck said. "The bad news is you have to really understand what you are trying to do with this light bulb. What is the application?"
Although consumers are becoming more aware of the changes, Lauck said it's not surprising that there's confusion and that people are stocking up on the old standby bulbs. After all, the standard bulb has not changed much since Thomas Edison developed it in 1879. "A lot of people don't like change. They don't like being told what to do," Lauck said."In the next several years, everything will be LEDs anyway; This is atransition period." At Capitol Lighting in Lake Park, sales associate Andrew Mazor said he has reassured customers who are concerned about the coming end of the 100-watt incandescent that the 75-watt halogen is a good choice. "They are panicking in advance. There are replacements. The halogen is the same shape. It looks just like a regular household bulb that we are used to," Mazor said. "I tell them not to worry. If you want to buy hundreds of 100-watt bulbs, you can do so."
Everyone knows the old joke: How many (fill in the blank) does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Here's a new answer for you: None, if you take your lamp to Light Bulbs Unlimited.
Just ask the helpful employee behind the counter, and he or she will tell you exactly what it will take to lighten up your world.
Regular bulbs start as cheap as 34 cents; those craving a spotlight can purchase one for $6; and hydro heads can purchase grow lights for $6.75.
It's easy to be dazzled by the array of cool hanging fixtures and lamps. A standing lamp with a row of round blue fixtures like six fish eyes will
set you back $1995. A whimsical fixture with a silver parachuting man affixed to a silver minispotlight costs $240. A beautiful modern
chandelier that resembles a shining spider web costs only $847.50. Fluorescents and miniatures, fixtures and novelty lights, colored bulbs
and neons - this place is positively glowing.
Stopping by is a bright idea. You'll leave feeling positively illuminated.
"It was our baby that we had nurtured from nothing," said Civin, CEO of Light Bulbs Unlimited International, which includes nine stores.
"And now it was all gone." The fire - the cause was never determined - destroyed all of the inventory inside the Light Bulbs Unlimited store
in Boca Raton. Civin says investigators are still trying to determine the estimated damages, but he wasn't able to salvage even a paper clip.
After a few hours of debating whether to reopen, Civin and his staff decided they couldn't let the store he had opened 12 years after arriving from
South Africa disappear. That night they moved operations to the company's headquarters in Pompano Beach and decided to keep the effect on customers
minimal. The store supplies bulbs for individuals and a wide range of businesses.
"We didn't want people to know there had been a disruption," Civin said.
The staff had all calls forwarded to their newly purchased cell phones, and an employee manned the entrance of the burned-out store for two months to
direct customers to the Pompano Beach store or call orders in on his phone. The company also offered free deliveries, even for only one 60-wattbulb.
"That really married a lot of customers to us," said Jon Gavronsky, the assistant manager.
The hottest trend in light bulbs continues in the opening of its second store. Until recently, choices were extremely limited.
One company that has met with phenomenal success in carving a niche in light bulbs, evidenced by the growing number
of shops being opened in the United States, is Light Bulbs Unlimited located at 1938 N.E. 163rd Street, the Houston based
national franchisor whose positioning line is "If We Ain't Got It, We'll Get It".
Each new Light Bulbs Unlimited location is selected on the basis of extensive market research and demographic analysis.
"We've been studying the North Miami Beach market carefully and our results show that there is a definite demand for a consistently
high quality light bulb outlet" said Ron Fabian, President of Light Bulbs Unlimited, South Florida.
Let's find out a little about this unusual business...With the recent introduction of many new light sources, such as metal halide,
tungsten halogen, low voltage lamps, neon's and the development of long-life and energy saving products, the industry's ability to cope with
public demand has been severely strained and largely inadequate. Large manufacturers like G.E., Sylvania and Westinghouse spend
millions promoting their name, products and image. They sell their bulbs in huge quantities to bulk buyers in the wholesale industry,
but out of the thousands of different types of bulbs they produce, only a fraction are available at the retail level. "The Houston headquarters
has such large buying power it can pass savings to its franchisees, who in turn pass savings on to its customers", noted Mr. Fabian.
Never before has a comprehensive range of basic and specialized light sources been marketed professionally to the public...
Now there is Light Bulbs Unlimited!