The character and quality of lighting are becoming ever more important as design elements for shops and stores, especially in association with new sales-promoting trends in design and merchandise presentation.
“The times when all people wanted was a high, balanced level of lighting with minimum operating and maintenance costs are long since gone”, says Dr. Ing. Roland Miller of Karstadt Warenhaus AG. “Particularly in view of the increasing polarisation now taking place as a result of new distribution channels like e-commerce, it is becoming ever more important for the stationary retail trade to offer customers not just a full range of merchandise, value for money and excellent service, but also an attractive ambience in which shopping becomes a retail experience”, says Miller. “The right lighting solution, matched to the requirements of the individual retailer so as to present merchandise positively and efficiently, can be decisive.“
Light for selling
There are just as many lighting solutions for shops and stores as there are shops and stores themselves. Solutions range from the simple – providing the necessary level of lighting for comfortable vision – to the sophisticated, offering targeted accentuation as well as dramatic lighting effects and illusions. The shifting requirements that have to be met by lighting and store design reflect not only the changing face of society but also changes in customers’ buying habits.
That lighting can be used to support a specific type of shop and a general sales strategy is nothing new. Functional, bright and uniform lighting, for example, is preferred by low-price stores, while a designer boutique will try to emphasise its image by using high-quality lighting that creates a specific mood.
Successful lighting design for stores must first of all provide an adequate level of illumination for the safety of customers and staff, and point them in the right direction when it comes to leaving the store safely in the event of a power failure. Much more important for successful selling, however, is that the ambience created by lighting design should attract customers, focus their attention on the merchandise and generate a positive buying atmosphere. The merchandise should be presented in such a way as to stimulate buying. If, on top of that, investment and running costs are low, then you have the ideal retail lighting solution.
Lighting concepts for retail
There are four fundamental types of lighting for the retail sector: Basic lighting (including safety lighting); special or accent lighting; architectural lighting; and effect lighting. Basic lighting has the job of providing an adequate basic level of illumination and generating the overall mood in the store. Special or accent lighting is mainly used to enhance visual displays. Architectural lighting covers those elements of lighting which pick out and emphasise the store’s interior architecture. With effect lighting, finally, light itself is used as a focal attraction to generate attention by changing the way we look at things. All four lighting systems in association with interior design and furnishings create the atmosphere of a store and can set it apart from others.
Getting the balance right between the four basic lighting systems is decisive in characterising and supporting a specific store type or selling strategy. However, in modern, sophisticated lighting designs, the distinctions between the systems are often blurred. Notably in up-market stores, particular attention must be devoted to architectural lighting in exterior design and to effect lighting in the shop window area.
Merchandising with light
Ambience, and hence light, will in future be a key factor in successful merchandising and in positioning a store appropriately, also in relation to e-commerce. In order to stay ahead of the competition or simply stand out, a store should see lighting design as an integral part of merchandising as well as of store architecture and design. As the central element of visual perception, light should be given a more predominant rather than the supporting role it often plays in conventional design. To find the most successful lighting design for a particular type of store, some fascinating innovative approaches focus on a direct link between merchandising and light planning. To develop the merchandising concept, a suitable relationship between merchandise and lighting is first visualised. Based on this, the furnishings and interior design are developed to complement the relationship.
Light emotions and light ambience
Light is a three-dimensional phenomenon that directly affects our conscious and subconscious minds and can create moods and emotions. The overall sales-supporting effect of light and illumination can only be achieved in the real world of the store. So far, the two-dimensional realm of e-commerce has had only limited success in recreating the variety of moods that can be visually generated by the three-dimensional nature of light. Illusions, which the virtual world of video trick technology uses to a very large extent, can be created and supported three-dimensionally on a much more emotional level using appropriate lighting effects. Just what is possible in this field is demonstrated impressively and to perfection in stage productions by illusionists such as Sigfried and Roy or David Copperfield.
Customers are motivated by a positive ambience whose spatial effect acts both as a frame of reference and supports merchandise presentation. Lighting solutions can achieve this effectively, particularly in large-scale stores. Different levels of brightness and varied colour hues can be used to accentuate individual areas without the need for physical partitioning. Back-lit vertical surfaces or luminous ceiling areas are particularly suitable for this.
New developments by the lamp and luminaire industry open up new possibilities
The most important steps forward in recent years as far as stores are concerned have been the development of compact fluorescent lamps and advances in metal halide lamps. Both developments, in the form of new types of luminaire, have already gained a broad foothold in store illumination. The days when fluorescent tubes were the dominant form of lighting in stores for reasons of economic efficiency are thus finally over. Aside from the continuous increases being achieved in the luminous intensity of light-emitting diodes, no revolutionary new developments can be expected at the present time.
Leading lamp manufacturers recently introduced smaller versions of the high-pressure metal halide lamp and the sodium vapour lamp. Their small size has made it possible to develop new types of luminaire, which are increasingly finding their way into store illumination.
New luminaire techniques are also needed for illuminating the room-high displays now being used more and more in Europe. Initial interesting types of inconspicuous ceiling spotlights providing room-high illumination of merhandise walling from only short distances away are already available.
The most important future innovations and improvements in lighting technology will probably come from advances in lighting control systems. Down the line, these systems will make it possible to transfer the effects familiar from stage and theatre lighting into the sales environment at reasonable expense and handling input. In addition, they will offer greater flexibility in dealing with rapid changes in merchandise presentation.
- Study by EHI