Lighting in retail environments
Am I the only one who finds shopping online just a little soulless? In recent years it seems that lower prices and shop-from-home convenience have been more important to people than the act of visiting the shops in person, and there has been a noticeable lack of excitement in-stores as a result.
Aware of the need to create an emotional experience to lure customers back, retailers are starting use value add strategies that can only be offered in-store. Manicures, pedicures and free styling sessions are some of the goodies now on offer in order to increase foot traffic.
But assuming you can successfully bring customers back into stores – what makes them prefer to spend time (and therefore dollars) in one store over another with similar product offerings? Interestingly, effective lighting in retail environments is widely regarded as an important sales tool.
It has been said that if you can only afford to change two things in retail, update your graphics and your lighting because getting those things right creates the biggest difference and visual impact for the consumer.
In my opinion, nowhere in retail is the quality of lighting more important than in women’s fashion and cosmetics.
Let’s face it, sometimes a girl’s gotta shop. And most of us (particularly when swimwear shopping) have had the experience of the change room cellulite-hell moment. In my opinion, the most heinous of all retail lighting crimes is the use of downlights in change room cubicles. Diffuse lighting of the vertical plane is essential in this instance. Softer wall mounted lighting is kinder, more intimate and much more conducive to falling in love with said article… all the way to the cash register.
Years ago, an owner of a surf shop engaged my services to redesign the lighting in his store. He told me he realised he needed new lighting in the change rooms after there had once been a black-out in the shop and on that day he had sold more bikinis than on any other day of the year.
Somewhat related to the above and one of the simpler tricks employed in retail lighting utilises a concept called the brightness gradient.
This is the rate of change of brightness or colour over a given area. High brightness gradients produce high levels of contrast and therefore drama, whereas low brightness gradients result in a more uniform wash of light. Both techniques have their place in a retail lighting environment.
Low brightness gradient sources such as fluorescent don’t have reflectors built into the lamps and so produce a more even and diffuse light. When positioned in mirrors behind diffusers they provide a great source of light for change rooms.
When it comes to displaying product, it is usually more effective to move to the other end of the brightness gradient spectrum. Sources such as low voltage halogen and compact LED sources draw attention to the product and produce high drama. Shop windows, cabinets and wall mounted product displays are opportunities to light for maximum impact.
As always, it’s the space between the light that gives the ‘wow’ factor and elicits the human response. For many women, shopping is an outing to share with friends and using lighting to create a positive emotional experience increases the possibility of success. So I suppose the moral of this story is, if you want to use lighting to attract customers to your client’s store – don’t be afraid of the dark!