It is widely recognised that in-store shopping is a social activity, helping to fulfil our requirement for leisure and entertainment, as well as commerce. Retailers are focused on creating destination stores to help drive brand engagement and further stimulate the customers’ propensity to buy, not only the product being sold in the store but also into the brand itself. Lighting plays a huge role in this visual conversation – by enticing the customer with dynamic window displays and helping navigate their way through the store. Lighting can draw the customers towards product displays that are carefully washed in intensely focused light, delivering high contrast ratios between display and circulation areas. A space dressed in a comfortable ambient light level will ensure prolonged dwell times and evoke warm emotions.
Considered lighting design is fundamental to a successful retail environment, not only in terms of helping create beautiful shops that deliver long-term profitability but also in reducing energy and the associated costs.
LED is an incredibly flexible light source, with the ability to be dimmed, change the white tone and primary colour, as well as being small enough to integrate into tiny luminaires and building elements. These compact LED chips enable manufacturers to miniaturise their luminaires, in turn, allowing lighting designers to be more creative, highlighting the finest of the store and product details. The future of retail lighting is more exciting than ever as a result of the development of this technology, which can deliver vast benefits to the retailer. LEDs enable designers to create spaces that help draw emotion and enrich the shopping experience, picking out product displays with such impact and vibrancy that they are impossible to miss when navigating the store.
In conjunction with the development of LED, lighting controls are changing the parameters of in-store illumination. Variations in colour temperature, intensity, pre-set scenes for times of the day or year is no longer the prohibitively complex and expensive undertaking. They can now be set using intuitive smartphone apps or remotely from the site via a gateway solution. In areas such as changing rooms, via a simple switch, the user can transform their own lit environment.
The importance of lighting to the future of retail
Not only is LED lighting used to help retailers sell their product, it is also fundamental in reducing the carbon impact of their store portfolio. LED technology revolutionised the lighting industry and continues to deliver ever-increasing energy savings over traditional light sources, such as halogen and metal halide. It is vital that each retail lighting project has energy efficiency at its core and strives to go beyond the Government-set targets to reduce the carbon impact across the retail sector. This focus is not only a result of Government-driven legislation but through customers wanting to engage with brands that have the ecological wellbeing of our planet at the centre of their operation.
Upcoming trends in retail lighting
Changing rooms are a very hot topic and for good reason. It is known that as much as 60% of the buying decisions are made in them. When strategically positioned in changing rooms, LED luminaires can help reduce the appearance of ageing through enhancing the natural skin tone and reducing unwanted shadows. This is then boosted by washing the customer in a warm, soft and high-quality light that shows off the clothes and makes the changing room experience invaluable. We are now integrating technology in changing rooms that encourages customer engagement by creating lit environments which replicate daily activities. This is achieved via scene switches, labelled with activities such as office and dinner or school and bedtime for children’s fitting rooms. These scenarios have different lighting effects and can be selected to suit what the customers are trying on. Increasing customer interaction has become a key part of our lighting design offer, tailoring specific controls solutions and allowing consumers to make better buying decisions. This level of customer control is now being transferred to the shop floor – allowing customers to stand in front of mirrors with specific levels of intensity, a variety of colours.
Understanding each zone within a store and the lighting concept that works within them is also key to a cohesive and stimulating store environment. More retailers are adding ‘store-in-store’ concepts, integrating coffee shops, salons and even car dealerships, all of which require considered lighting design.
Lighting is subjective not just because of personal design preference, which over time is often manipulated by marketing, but also because of ageing the way our eyes react to light is fundamentally different. Therefore, it is impossible to have a one-size-fits-all approach to retail lighting design. A prime example of this is that when working with department stores we have to be mindful that their customer demographic can span 60 years or more. Therefore, the challenge is balancing the latest trends, often calling for higher contrast ratios and more drama, with a solution that is more utilitarian, softening the edges and increasing the ambient levels.
As a result of the online shopping tsunami, coupled with the rising business and lease rates, it is no surprise that the high street is having a tough time. Many retailers are reducing their store footprints and cutting down their estates to combat this financial black hole. This means that the physical space they have left needs to represent the ambitions of the brand and enable their customer to engage with them in a way that other forms of commerce fall short. Stores need to stimulate the senses, evoke emotions and provide inspiring lifestyle spaces. We are in the era of omnichannel retailing and we need to accept that stores cannot offer the same level of convenience that online can, but when done well, can more than make up for it in experience.