The next time you visit your local Home Depot (NYSE:HD) store, consider taking a stroll down the lighting aisle to see something new and exciting -- and much more so the latter if you're an investor in OLED technologist Universal Display Corporation (NASDAQ:OLED).
As of a few days ago, The Home Depot began offering four different OLED light fixtures from lighting specialist Acuity Brands (NYSE:AYI). And while these fixtures are still prohibitively expensive, ranging from $199 to $299 apiece, their inclusion at Home Depot (both online and in-store) is significant for several reasons and could mean good things going forward for Universal Display Corporation.
A lighting revolution?
First, you might remember when I wrote about OLED (organic light emitting diode) lighting this past August, I suggested its promise was such that it could eventually revolutionize the global lighting industry. After all, OLED light sources are not only highly efficient and cool to the touch, but they also distribute even, beautiful light in contrast to the more focused point light sources like current LED bulbs. In addition, OLED lights can be manufactured paper-thin, flexible, opaque, and in a wide variety of shapes and colors. This enables an unrivaled number of aesthetically pleasing, energy-efficient design options for ambitious manufacturers.
But while those manufacturers include big names like Acuity, OSRAM, Konica Minolta, and Philips (NYSE:PHG) -- the last of which notably signed an expanded commercial material supply agreement with Universal Display earlier this year -- we had yet to see an OLED lighting product make its way to the mass market through a large retailer until now.
Here's how to invest
Acuity's OLED panels are produced by LG Chem, which itself is another long-standing customer of Universal Display. Acuity has sold these OLED light fixtures of its own accord for some time, but, again, this is the first time the market has been offered an OLED light source on a broad scale at retail. And make no mistake, this is an absolutely crucial milestone for any technology hoping to be taken seriously by hundreds of millions of consumers.
According to Universal Display CFO Sid Rosenblatt during the company's most recent earnings conference call, however, patience is still warranted.
"The lighting industry only made up approximately 5% of our revenues [in 2014] and it is still going to be in its early stages in 2015," Rosenblatt said. "I think you will see some growth -- there are a number of players that have pilot lines and introducing pilot products ... but I don't see any real capacity in 2015."
Universal Display investors should be careful, then, not to expect OLED lighting to drive meaningful growth in the near term. In the meantime, Universal Display will rely primarily on the continued proliferation of small- and medium-sized OLED displays from Samsung, and of large OLED television sets -- which experienced their own similar watershed moment at retail earlier this year -- from LG Electronics.
However, given the relatively small slice of Universal Display's overall revenue as it stands, OLED lighting serves as yet another potential catalyst to which patient, long-term investors can look forward. As a result, and despite its maddening short-term volatility, that's why I plan to continue patiently holding my own shares of Universal Display.