Lighting the past and the future

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Thorn Lighting celebrates its milestone 90th anniversary on 29 March 2018 and the company remains a major force in the global lighting industry. Today, after nine decades of lighting innovation, Thorn has an enviable reputation for smart and reliable high-performance lighting solutions with integrated controls, serving countless applications. The Thorn name is associated with iconic projects worldwide, such as Wembley Stadium, Hong Kong Airport and the City of Oslo. More recent successes include a German Design Award for its Civiteq product, supplying lighting for the redeveloped and expanded Oslo Airport and winning the contract to light the new Tottenham Hotspur football ground in London, as part of the Zumtobel Group. 

The Thorn story begins in March 1928, when Jules Thorn started what would become one of Britain’s most successful businesses, with a simple mission: to make great lighting easy. Born in Austria in 1899, Jules Thorn first came to Britain as a sales rep for a company making gas mantles. But he soon decided to set up on his own company, and founded the Electric Lamp Service Company Ltd. Thorn soon proved himself to be an innovative businessman with a remarkable ability to see opportunities where others couldn’t. 

Lou Bedocs, lighting applications advisor at Thorn, and one of the company’s longest-serving employees, remembers: “Everybody thought Jules was mad when he decided to build a 30-million-a-year capacity lamp factory. But he went ahead and built more than 70 factories around the world not just for lamps but also for luminaires, control gears and lighting accessories. Now 90 years later we can look back on a true pioneer who left his mark on the world of industry.” 

The new company quickly went from servicing lamps to manufacturing them, and later diversified into luminaires, domestic appliances, TVs and radios. In 1936, under the new name Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd, the company floated on the London Stock Exchange. By 1959 it was the tenth biggest company in the UK, and its new purpose-built head office at Thorn House (today’s Orion House) was one of the tallest buildings on the London skyline. 

In the 1980s the company continued to grow, acquiring a number of other lighting manufacturers in Europe and Australia. By the time a management buyout separated the lighting business from the rest of the group in 1994, Thorn was a major global player in the lighting industry. 

Its PopPack became the best-selling batten luminaire of all time with around 90 million sold pieces until today. The production of the 60 millionth PopPack in October 1995 was even honoured with a visit of the Queen to the Thorn factory in Spennymoor, UK. In 2000 the company joined the renowned Zumtobel Group, positioning it for further global growth and strengthening its’ outdoor and sports lighting portfolios. 

Thorn’s insistence on quality and its dedication to making effective lighting simple has helped to establish its reputation as a dependable performance brand. The philosophy: Offering the right product and service at the right price for the right application. Thorn’s lights are installed on the iconic arch at London’s Wembley Stadium, Arco della Pace in Milan, City University London and the streets of Copenhagen. Over the years the company’s products have illuminated major sporting events such as Muhammad Ali’s match against Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur in 1975, and several of the venues for the 2016 European football championship in France. 

Today Thorn is a globally trusted and multi-award winning lighting supplier, developing and designing solutions that provide the right lighting for offices, shops, schools, universities and industrial sites all over the world. Thorn’s luminaires have transformed sports arenas, guided millions of vehicles safely over roads and through tunnels, improved safety and helped cities become smarter and more liveable, by combining lighting with connectivity. 

As a trusted partner of smart city initiatives including DOLL (the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab) and LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International), Thorn is playing a key role in supporting cities with efficient solutions that can incorporate intelligent sensors and antennas. Digitalisation is transforming Thorn’s indoor lighting solutions too, with new smart product ranges including IQ Wave for offices or HiPak for industrial applications. 

Paul Coggins, SVP Northern Europe, commented “We are immensely proud of our heritage at Thorn. Since Jules Thorn set up the company 90 years ago we have been pushing technology forward to produce the very best solutions for our customers. Our 90th anniversary is not only a time to look back on all the inspiring moments and stories in our history, but it’s also a brilliant opportunity to look ahead. Going forward we will continue to develop technologically advanced solutions for our core markets and core segments. In addition the services on offer via ZGS (Zumtobel Group Services) will enable us to be the best placed to manage the lit environment, optimising user experience and maximising the opportunities that lie ahead in a connected world.

 

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