The continued growth of internet based purchasing has significantly increased over the last 18 months, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting ‘lockdown’ which has resulted in a massive detrimental effect to sales on the high street and possibly to a lesser extent, the retail parks. With the relaxation in restrictions now in force, all retailers will need to use every resource available to attract the lost customers back to their high street based retail shops in an effort to generate the incremental business required in this most challenging trading environment, where stores are closing in even greater numbers than before the pandemic.
With high street retail purchases becoming more difficult to achieve, presenting an aesthetic and pleasing retail environment in store, is now even more crucial than it has ever been, especially as many, if not the majority of purchase decisions still tend to be made at the “point of sale” leaving the need for retailers to appreciate that lighting can be considered as one of the most important influencers in any retail environment. Lighting can assist in drawing in the customers, creating the atmosphere, providing the ease of orientation and creating structure to the retail space. Basically, the right retail lighting can entice shoppers into the store and can elevate the merchandise being displayed to be that which is most desirable resulting in a potential increase in sales.
Operating costs for retailers are also of critical concern, due to the long opening hours and with a significant amount of ambient and accent lighting, making the energy efficiency of the lighting solution an important factor. This is due to reasons of the costs of electricity consumption, the heat build-up from the light sources, the longevity of the installed equipment, any on-going maintenance costs required to keep all the lighting working to its full potential and also in the sustainability of minimising the carbon footprint of the retail store, a lot to consider for any retailer.
Qualitative retail lighting makes for a higher level of sales and one of the most important aspects of any retail lighting solution is that retailers are selling the products on display, not the display lighting. The designed lighting solution is not the same as that for an office or the like, however it may that just the ceiling system is the only item of a similar construction.
When considering and specifying the lighting required to illuminate the new store, it should form part of the strategy of the merchandising plan in that the illumination of the displays will strengthen the way in which the goods are shown to the potential customer and assist in providing a positive impact on the whole customer experience. It is important to illuminate the store in a way, which will draw the passer-by into entering the store, by providing a well illuminated space with an inviting atmosphere, incorporating a planned illuminated route through the store will assist in the potential customer becoming engaged and wanting to take time to explore all that is on display.
Creating a guiding route which takes in the whole store area including the main focal points will draw customers through the store looking at goods whilst moving towards those area of focus in the hope that they will extend the length of time spent inside the store, potentially leading to significantly increasing the opportunity for a purchase to be made. Use the lighting installation to set the ambience which the store elicits and creating a unique solution can enhance the customer experience.
For the optimum lighting solution, it is important to remember the different forms of lighting used in the retail application, that being ‘Ambient’, ‘Accent’, ‘Task’ and ‘Decorative’. When looking at the design components, consider each of the types of lighting on an individual basis and then how each will then form a part of the specified cohesive solution and how with the addition of some lighting control, the experience of the customer can further be enhanced.
Starting outside the retail store, it is the window display which is first to be seen by any prospective purchaser. This has significant importance in the whole concept of the lighting solution as being the first indication of the store and what experience can be gained from entering, the lighting in this area should be set at a level dependent upon its location. For the covered shopping arcade type location, the internal window lighting is suggested to have a level of illuminance around three times that of the arcade walkway lighting level, whereas, for exterior pedestrian high street locations, the lighting solution may be required to consider the environment as to the distances passers-by will be from the store and whether or not the store gains direct sunlight onto the window display.
Firstly consider ‘Ambient Lighting’, that which is required to provide general illumination to see by and allows safe access and transit through the store. It is the main form of lighting providing a level of general illumination across the whole space and to that end, the selection of the lighting equipment is that which fits best with the environment rather than just offering a bland lighting design. The ambient lighting itself is the blank canvas needed upon which the design of the other forms of lighting can then be added to so as to provide that optimum lighting solution which creates an enticing and aesthetically pleasing interior environment allowing customers to stop and take time to explore the space. It is important to consider the ambient lighting carefully as the positions of all other lighting will be required to work around the locations of the ambient lighting equipment. Different retail stores will each require a different solution with regard to the type, shape and dimensions of the luminaire, the lumen output and the colour temperature so as to provide a level of illumination based upon each individual application.
Consider next the ‘Accent Lighting’ that which is that used to illuminate and highlight the goods on sale as well as providing additional illumination for other key areas within the store. With regard to the lighting, increasing the level of illumination by a factor of three, over that of the level of ambient illuminance to highlight goods and other features will significantly increase their visibility whilst indicating to the customer of their importance within the overall display. The accent lighting targets those key products, which may include a new range, be those with the greatest sale potential or those which are being offered at a reduced cost to sell through discontinued stock. Having now decided upon the action plan for highlighting these areas, it is at this time where the selection of appropriate equipment is made as different types of display require different types of lighting and to this conclusion, installing a system which offers flexibility, such as with a mains track system with LED spotlights will allow changes according to the goods on offer without having to incur additional costs for lighting equipment. Accent lighting can also be a more localised option such as for individual shelves or for the inside of a small glass cabinet using LED Strip as the lighting option.
Then consider the ‘Task Lighting’ which is that required to carry out specific tasks within the store, such as around the area where a payment is made or within the fitting rooms where for fashion stores, goods are being tried-on. Other areas may include counters for the folding and packing of purchases as in menswear stores selling suits and jackets or for arranging alterations to clothing. Task lighting may also be required in the back of house areas, such as over the desk in the office where cashing-up and completing the paperwork is carried out. For other types of stores, each may require task lighting for those tasks which are only specific to their type of business.
The final component of the lighting solution is that of the ‘Decorative Lighting’ which is more of an application specific addition and is basically lighting additional to that required for the application but will provide the additional feature of aesthetic effect rather that increased illumination, even though all lighting is cumulative and whatever is added will increase the level of average illumination. Jewellers sometimes tend to add a chandelier within store to assist in making the store have a more up-market feel, whereas other stores will add decorative lighting at certain times of the year.
Before considering the lighting control, it is worth considering some of the more common mistakes made with regard to retail lighting. This is a complex form of illumination which is not just the provision of illumination to see by, rather it is a combination of the effects from the illumination and the creation of the optimum environment in which potential shoppers wish to spend time and feel at ease, whilst enjoying the space with good visibility of the products on show. Probably the most common situation is attempting to create a qualitative lighting solution without cost, where the only components are an excessive amount of ambient lighting combined with a few spotlights in an attempt to provide lighting on a budget, rather than the tiered effect required for customer satisfaction.
Now finally, consider the control of the lighting which has been installed, as with the changing levels of natural light throughout the day, will require different levels of electric light and when the store is less busy, there may be an opportunity to reduce some or the accent illumination, so as to reduce the energy consumption, whilst maintaining the lighting within the window areas, as it is that which first attracts customers to the store. The OCTO system from Ansell Lighting offers the opportunity to vary the lighting allowing the creations of different scenarios which can enhance the customer experience within store.
In concluding, lighting within the retail outlet is not just installed for illumination, it is much more important, being part of the whole strategic plan of merchandising and creating a store in which customer both wish to visit and spend time in. Achieving that may provide the additional benefit of previous and current customer telling their family, friends and colleagues of their experience within store, potentially increasing the footfall of customers visiting the location. Installing a lighting system may just be what is required in the attempt to increase sales after the last year or so during the pandemic, but retaining your current lighting and doing nothing will certainly only give you access to your current customer base and not generate those incremental opportunities.
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