Interlectric competes with giants
Finding a specialty in the lighting market has allowed Interlectric to thrive in a market that includes massive firms such as GE, Sylvania and Phillips.
“We’ve always made the products that the large three didn’t have time or didn’t want to make the smaller runs. We can turn over different type lamps all day long” said Interlectric Marketing Coordinator Bob Brown. “We’ve survived by making small runs and we’re still doing it. It’s a tough business and it is a changing market.”
According to its website, “Interlectric Corporation is one of the largest independent fluorescent lamp manufacturers in the world.” The company employs approximately 125 people.
Interlectric has “always had a niche of specialty type lighting” he explained, including bug lights and “true light” which “mimics natural day light” and is “a lot easier on the eyes.”
The other niche in which Interlectric is strong is tanning lamps.
“(We are) the only company in the United States that makes tanning lamps,” Brown said, noting that there are only two other tanning lamp manufactures left in the world in addition to Interlectric. One is in Germany and another is based on Connecticut but produces its lighting in Hungary.
“Both Phillips and Sylvania used to make them but don’t any more,” said Brown. “It’s been a big part of the business since the late 1980s.”
The company also produces specialty lighting, such as lights for meat and deli cases that “enhance the colors of meat products so that when you look at the steak it looks nice and red.”
“That’s our niche,” he said, “Novelty stuff. (We) make a lot of lighting for individual companies, companies who come and want their brand put on it.”
While the past for the company has been driven by fluorescent lighting, the future is headed toward LED lighting.
“The market is going toward LEDs,” said Brown. “We have started do this. We are making our own LED for signs that is an easy change out. We have fluorescent lamps that go in outdoor signs, big box signs. We’ve come up with an LED that uses the same socket” as a fluorescent light, he added.
“The thing about LEDs is they have a pretty good longevity,” he said. “But they’re pretty costly… They’re trying to change over to lamps that would replace fluorescent lighting. That seems to be the wave of the future. The market is always changing.”
Brown explained that a LED lamp sells for three times more than a fluorescent one but is also rated for 50,000 hours, as opposed to 24,000 for the traditional fluorescent lamp.
But changing technology won’t leave Interlectric behind because their model isn’t predicated on being on the cutting edge of lighting technology.
“Our business has always been a replacement business,” said Brown. “(We’ve) never been a company that offered new innovation. We can do things that we are doing now.” He said that includes development of a “new market light LED that is pretty darn close to our fluorescent light.”
But while LED technology is the new wave, that doesn’t mean it will stick.
“We are just on the border, getting our feet wet and going really slow,” he said.
Citing Interlectric CEO Steve Rothenberg, Brown said that there are millions of fluorescent fixtures throughout the world. “It will take time to replace” and convert to LED. “Many will want to stick with fluorescent and won’t want to change over.”
That may be particularly true in tanning lamp element of the business.
Brown noted that LED lamps do not produce UV rays, a prerequisite for a tanning lamp. “There’s no changing there,” he said.
Looking ahead, “the business is out there and it fluctuates,” he said.