As part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, the team at Innovare Design have commissioned ten interviews and articles from our trusted network, which explore different areas of the retail experience. In this first article, we hear from Daniel Green, Lighting Designer at INTO Lighting, about the advantages of investing in good lighting design, as well as the benefits derived from the rise of LED.
So you’re planning to open or refurbish your store, and you need to make an impact to stand out from your competitors. You’ve looked at interior & consumer trends, colour theory, material finishes, identified your most popular goods, mapped out customer routes & your key destinations, and even devised an eye-catching set of P.O.S. for the season’s new lines.
What about the lighting?
Lighting is one of the most effective mediums of presenting and enhancing a space to attract attention and footfall. A key role in retail spaces, clever lighting can add drama & mood to a primary window or point-of-sale, highlight the vibrancy and richness of materials and textiles, and celebrate destinations within the area to encourage consumers inward. More importantly, they are most likely to stay in your store for longer periods, increasing “dwell time”, which can lead to greater chances of purchases.
How can you create drama with light?
Drama can also be considered as Contrast. To establish contrast with light, areas in need of attention are lit to a brighter, sharper level of detail than areas of less visual importance. Hanging items on a perimeter clothing rail, or display items on island units should receive a greater volume of focused light than the walkways beside them. Always light the product first, rather than the space surrounding it. After all, that’s what’s for sale.
This is typically achieved using directional, adjustable lighting with defined, angular beams, rather than ambient fittings that evenly distribute diffused light in every direction. Whilst such luminaires can be seen as “cost effective” the resulting atmosphere is often highly uniform. This is the opposite of drama. Uniformity in an office or school is great. In retail it often results in “flat” spaces, giving everything in the store the same level of light and therefore the exact same appearance. Nothing stands out or catches the eye, and potential customer draw from outside is significantly hampered. There is a fine art to store design & window dressing. The lighting utilised to present them should emphasise this, rather than wash them out.
Consumer draw is not just how you get people to enter your store, but how you also invite them to walk through and experience the space as a whole, prolonging their stay. For this reason, equal attention should be paid to not just your mid-floor mannequins, product islands or points of interest, but also to how key vertical surfaces and displays at the end of the unit, especially which are directly visible from the front door, are lit to stand out and create one of your destinations. Vertical illuminance is incredibly important. A well-lit rear display or illuminated graphic for instance is very effective at increasing traffic through a store, meanwhile a poorly lit end-wall can make a space look gloomy and somewhat uninviting from the outside.
The positioning and location of your lighting in relation to the space its enhancing is equally important. Display zones with a higher density of joinery or shelving will typically benefit from additional integrated lighting, rather than solely relying on ceiling fixtures. A combination of the two can be an effective method of minimising any “fall-off” at the top or bottom of your display. The spacing & offset of ceiling luminaires from the target area of illumination is set-out in relation to not just the fittings’ beam angle and light output but also the size of the display and the positioning of the product. Care should be taken to get as close to the optimum as possible, whilst working with the store’s architecture. A perfectly suitable light fitting will deliver a less-than perfect result if it isn’t positioned correctly.
For stores with regularly changing layouts or seasonal displays, flexible lighting such as gimbal fittings or trackspots can be repositioned and re-angled to transform spaces in relation to their relative use. Interchangeable reflectors and lenses can take this a step further, enabling you to change the level of drama to fit the display’s new layout.
The colour of light
There are different ways of describing the colour of light. Colour Temperature looks at the “warmth” of light. The general appearance of a lit environment can change when exposed to cooler and warmer lighting. Measured in Kelvin, the higher the number, the cooler the colour temperature. 3000K is a typical benchmark for most retail applications, as it has comfortable warm, relaxing appearance without being too rich, nor is it too clinical or pale. However, some applications such as high-end jewellery will benefit from cooler temperatures (4000 – 5000K) as it heightens the “sparkle” of precious stones, crystal and metals.
Colour Rendering or “Colour Appearance” focuses on how true the appearance of illuminated objects are to the actual pigments they feature. How often have you bought an item of clothing to then walk outside or get home and find it looks different to how it did in the store? This is because the colour rendering of the store’s lighting was low enough to alter the product’s perceived colours. The higher the luminaire’s CRI (Colour Rendering Index), the closer and truer the appearance of the illuminated product will be.
This is important for your customers, as the look & feel they were sold on in the store will still be present when they leave, and they are more likely to visit regularly than a store that has lighting with poorer colour appearance. In a similar vein, there’s also a risk over “retail morality” with lighting that falsely enriches product appearance using particular concentrated wavelengths of light. For example, lamps with greater amounts of blue to make denim more vibrant, or higher reds for meat to look fresher & tastier.
The rise of LED lighting
Often relying on high brightness and high output light sources, (particularly in the case of high-end retail and jewellery), traditional retail-focused luminaires such as halogen or metal halide fittings are increasingly being overtaken by the rising use of LED lighting, particularly as many manufacturers can offer sources with high CRI. The primary reasons for this can be summed up as Efficiency, Size, Flexibility & Durability.
An LED-based lighting scheme will often result in greater energy efficiency for a number of reasons. Firstly, the energy consumed by an LED installation is significantly less than that of comparable traditional sources. Metal Halide lamps may be very bright, but they also have notably higher wattages, and so require more power. Conventional lamps can also get very hot, so a lot of energy is wasted as heat. LED lamps can not only provide a store with high brightness on less load, but with well-designed heatsinking an LED luminaire will generate significantly less heat. This means that your store’s Watts per Square Metre is reduced, as is the draw on electricity and the ambient temperature – something worth considering if you are displaying food or delicate materials that may wilt or suffer under certain temperature exposure. Another benefit of using LEDs to light fragile objects is the lack of UV light present or emitted by them. UV light can be quite harmful on fabric and pigments. This is why LEDs are a good choice for Art Galleries and Museums. The lifetime of an LED is also much longer than a traditional halogen or halide lamp, so although initial purchase costs can be higher, the maintenance cost of the scheme will be less as the prolonged service life means you don’t need to keep replacing blown lamps.
Less localised heat means that lighting can be installed with greater ease by the contractor, in closer proximity to consumers. In addition, as LED’s regularly increase in their efficiency and performance their smaller sized chip sources enable them to be integrated into slimmer profiles, shallower recessed luminaires, and more unique products that offer approaches that larger, less discreet conventional fittings couldn’t achieve. Combine these two, and you have the likes of super-slim glowing shelves, illuminated translucent signage and edge lit table tops, all with minimally obtrusive lighting, and safe to touch.
When looking at installing light over greater distances, traditionally you would overlap fluorescent battens, or run sections of cold cathode in a detail. However, the space required to house the lighting was large, and even with the best installation you will still get dark-spots or breaks in the overall appearance. If for any reason a cold cathode tube breaks, a new one needs to be blown to replace it. If a fluorescent tube needs replacing, and your local wholesaler doesn’t have the right colour temperature, you could end up with part of the run warmer or colder than the rest.
Products such as linear LED tape & profile allow much longer, continuous runs of light to be introduced to architecture and details that now needs to be a fraction of the size it used to. The effect is more homogenous, uniform and consistent. Remote power supplies are able to be placed metres away from the sources, so future access can be planned accordingly for ease of maintenance. The fact that LEDs are solid state technology means that they also more robust and typically have greater durability than that of a conventional lamped fitting. This means they can better withstand wear & tear not only during the installation but also over the course of its service life.
Clever lighting design methods, combined with the continued advancements of LED technology can provide retailers with effective, detailed & appealing lighting schemes that complement their products, boost consumer traffic and help increase sales, whilst minimising running costs, energy use and general maintenance. It’s all in the detail!