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When the Light is Right: The importance of lighting in retail

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American photographer Aaron Rose was famously quoted saying: “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” Nothing could have better accentuated the importance of right lighting for a retail store than the Rose’s quote. Whether a retailer opts for dim lighting or makes his store lively with bright lights, the most important thing to remember is that the lighting needs to go with the brand story. A mismatch there and it’s sure to affect footfalls.
We speak with industry experts from different verticals to learn more. If one has to narrow down on one of the best and most wisely lit retail stores, then without doubt it has to be the H&M chain. The stairway that connects the floors of the store moving from one section to another give the shopper a feel of walking into an open space that is naturally lit. From concealed LED lights that bring alive the white story of the store to the brightness that is just right for the eyes to shop without getting stuck at any particular section, all of the H&M stores are delightfully lighted. Similarly, there a lot many stores that takes their lighting seriously too. Lighting is not just about fancy lighting that attracts a customer to the store, but it is all about knowing where and which section of the store needs special focus. Good store lighting can have a strong impact on the way the customer shops at a retail store and eventually it plays an important role in compelling him to fill his shopping bag.
Talking about the importance of right lighting for retail stores Manoj K Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Viviana Mall says, “Lighting is one of the significant way, in which retail stores can create a pleasant atmosphere for their customers. New arrivals (products) should get adequate focus, hence, lighting plays an important role in its presentation. Those products displayed as part of sale should also be highlighted with ample lighting to get shopper’s attention. Never keep any shelf of the store in dark, as that would result in lesser sales of the products. The stores must use LED lighting that are better than standard incandescent and fluorescent lighting. It enhances the product’s appearance. The stores can use lighting design to both create an atmosphere and reflect your branding.”
Where majority of the retail stores entrust the lighting solution to their architectural firm or interior design agency, studies strongly suggest that an expert in this field be consulted for effective results. As against earlier, most of the retailers today opt for LED lighting instead of florescent lights. Intelligent use of LED lights in different forms not only adds to the overall store ambiance but it also helps create the right mood that can be a part of the brand story. Besides these advantage, LED lights also end up being cost effective and energy efficient helping lit up targeted areas with ease.
Austria’s lighting manufacturer Zumtobel Group in a research titled ‘Attention, Attractiveness and Perception Mediated by Lighting in Retail Spaces’, which was carried forward with Prof Jan Ejhed, Head of the Lighting Laboratory at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm and Dr. Roland Greule from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW) drew out some interesting conclusions:
– Contrast is your Friend: Retail lighting should be high contrast, making perception easier and heightening levels of attention.
– Distribute Light Right: Diffuse general lighting ensures a subjective sense of well-being. Vertical illuminance makes orientation easier and the easier it is for customers to find their way around, the more likely they are to walk around a shop.
– Consider Colour Temperature: Cool colour temperatures such as cool white make areas appear more spacious whereas warm colour temperatures create an impression of smallness and familiarity.
– Work those Windows: In shop windows, use pinpoint accenting to emphasise perceived contrasts. In the evening and when there is little daylight, even low illuminance levels as sufficient.
– Put the Light Down Low: Targeted accent lighting or dynamic lighting in the lower third of shelves results in customers lingering longer and may boost sales. Shelf-integrated lighting is recommended at all levels.
– It’s Not all About Accents: Wide-area backlighting of shelves produces a more attractive effect than accent lighting only.
Expert Speak
To hear it from a retail expert on the lighting solution in place for his store, Mahesh Patel, Associate Vice President- Sales – EBO, Spykar Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd. says, “We buy what we see. Lighting is a medium through which a buyer is able to see the brands merchandise. Light can create an ambience by varying its properties like colour temperatures (CCT), colour rendering index (CRI) and vivid beam angles. This initiates buyer’s feel and emotions for the merchandise. Hence lighting is an integral part of store ambience. Spykar exclusive outlets are designed to appeal to the Young and Restless spirits, where age is just a state of mind. The layout is minimalistic with monochromatic backgrounds that enhance the details on the garments. Special innovations in changing room lighting throws light from the front rather than from the top. Elemental lighting on table clusters and denim fixture add a premium touch. Overall play of light to dull areas draws in customers to the different spaces in the store.”
Elaborating further, he says, “Brand image will be created when the brand upholds a unique lighting design concept compared to other retailers, which Spykar as a brand has done beautifully. Nesting tables are distinctly lit through decorative pendants of silver finish. Denim jeans section warmly lit through hanging lights. Both are filament bulb based luminaires, wisely selected without harming general illumination. Other general ambience are maintained through down lighters. Neutral white colour temperature is selected to retain the buyer’s active mood. Necessary care is taken at trial room lighting, linear 6 feet lights are given besides the mirror which will provide sufficient glare free lights from the mirror front and can easily define buyer’s fit wear.”
FECs at malls are home to adults and kids alike and this makes it all the more challenging for brands operating in this space to fine tune their lighting that appeals to both. Happy Planet is a mix of a play park and an arcade gaming zone. To top it off there were relaxing services to off er parents while their children were at play.
For designer Sakshi Gehani, the task at hand was to offer the right lighting solution that would serve the purpose of the place – one that communicated with and caught attention of a child as well as teenagers, that not only got a child all thrilled to play but also a parent to relax and enjoy their time be it while at the café for a party or while enjoying a foot spa.
On the lighting solution in place that she decided to go ahead with, Gehani says, “This being a play park catering to various age groups we were very conscious of the lighting treatment to strike the right balance between direct and ambient lighting. We picked up different shapes of direct lights and used the brand colour for the fixtures to make the ceiling look interesting and playful as part of the décor. Another interesting and fascinating selection was that of the cloud lights for the sand area which add the ‘Wow’ factor to the outdoor feel we have created inside the store. These imported lights also beautifully complement the tree installation right next to it and catch ones attention as soon as one enters the store. We also added a natural touch with soft beams of light peeping in though the crevices and gaps of foliage created for the tree by adding spotlights between its branches.”
Elaborating on the use of lights to create the mood, she reveals, “The beautiful mix of warm white and blue droplets of lights in the form of simple bulbs in the snow land instantly transport you from the warm, dessert feel (cloud lights above sand pit) to a rather cool and snowy day feel with the correct shift of lights and its colors. This being the section for kids activities was designed to be well lit and playful, while the other section of the ground floor with arcade games was designed to attract teenagers and hence we used basic colored t5 tube lights to create a more cozy vibe. The two parts which have been tastefully divided with a rainbow pathway on the floor stand out individually by a simple twist of lights yet complement the décor as a whole because of the inclusive and balanced approach towards lighting. Our innovation here with lights I believe is how we have implemented simple, basic and commonly found lights in a rather versatile, unique and creative manner. Such that it not only fit into the budget but also transformed and uplifted the décor because of our attempt at creative implementation of very basic lights.”
Moving over to the use of appropriate lighting for a café, Gaurav Narang’s Coffee Culture has just the right kind of lighting that a café needs.
Narang explains, “Coffee Culture Outlets have always been driven by the local culture of the city. We always create spaces that take up various elements of the city or the location and create a déjà vu of the locality. We have always made sure that the light that falls in our cafes is of the right color and at the right spots as we don’t want to cause any hindrance for our customers that come in here for some good coffee and the conversations that come up with it. In terms of light fittings, each cafe follows its local theme, for example, our Navsari outlet is designed with the elements of Parsi culture like old torches, old cameras shaped lights to give a feel of Parsi culture in the land of Parsis.”
On his choice of lights, Narang adds, “Natural light is the best source of light, but it has to be controlled depending on the different premises it enters. Plus, yellow lights is a must as it makes the place more welcoming and creates a warm, comfortable atmosphere perfect for those long conversations over a cup of coffee. Plus, decorative lightings and ambient lightings actually add character to space and can be used according to the theme of the space in our case.”
The importance of right kind of lighting for a jewellery store cannot be selecting. I have put in efforts in selecting right quality of light for the store. Yes, some have been imported from abroad but most of the lighting is sourced from various corners of India.”
Why Store Lighting is an Integral Part of Retail Design
There is no one answer to this. There are in fact, several factors that come into play that make store lighting extremely important. For instance, the right kind of lighting can:
– Lure customers to a store Lead customers through a store
– Help draw attention to particular sections or products that the retailer wants the customer to take notice of
– Accentuate key attributes of the merchandise on display
– Bring in a positive change in the customers mood – bright light can have a very positive effect on a customer’s shopping decision
– Influence sale by conveying to the customer that the store has truly invested in creating a favourable ambiance for shoppers to shop
Narang shares his views on the importance of right lighting, “Lights play a very important role when it comes to cafes and conversations. Striking the right balance between Accent Lighting, Ambient Lighting and Natural Lighting is the key to any good café ambience and we make sure that the perfect amount is always achieved.”
Advocating the use of LED lights and how his team has taken it upon them to ensure energy conservation, he highlights, “We have made sure that we use LED lights even in filament bulb kind of fixtures as they use less electricity and last longer than other bulbs, our neon signs are now LED sourced too, which was earlier not possible. In terms of the overall store, we make sure that we have automatic timers for our main signage so that the lights are switched on and off at the right time.”
On the energy conservation tactics used for Happy Planet, Gehani says, “With the different and new lights available these days, we always try to choose power saving light fittings wherever possible. Apart from the obvious change in fittings things like having multiple switches rather than operating all lights on one / two switches, choosing wattage that suits the usage of space rather than going overboard with it, using dimmers, purchasing energy efficient appliances, maintaining sources of natural light where ever possible, while also limiting unnecessary openings and windows in warmer climate conditions to avoid heat gain which makes air conditioners inefficient, installing motion sensors etc are few very simple and achievable ways for energy conservation these days.”
Sharing details on the changes in lighting solution incorporated at all Spykar store in the past one year, Patel says, “Earlier in Spykar stores, one could observe diff used ambience, through diff used down lights. Here average store lighting illumination was around 750 Lux. But in the recent year well lit mall ambience and increase display screen usage made us to target higher Lux level between 1,500 to 2,000 Lux per store. Hence we upgraded diff used models with COB based reflector models, which are sufficient in providing focused beam. With this, the merchandise is not only lit but they also get highlighted with bright spots. We are experimenting by combining spot and diff use lighting parameters.”
On the energy conservation action plan in place for Viviana, Agarwal and his team have taken strong steps like installation of 900 KW rooftop solar. The mall has increased its rooftop solar power installation from the earlier 40 percent to 60 percent now.
According to Agarwal, “The setup at Viviana Mall will generate approximately 1.36 lakhs watts of clean energy in a month. This makes us the first mall in India to have such a vast setup of Rooftop Solar plan. This plant also helps in saving 30 percent of electricity and helps the company save Rs 4 lakh in energy cost every month. The increase in percentage of rooftop installation reduces the use of conventional sources of energy (diesel) to a considerable amount and the electricity supply directly consumed in common areas and chillers. The mall also aims to increase power generation by 15 percent in coming years and to be recognized as the greenest mall of India. Viviana Mall is leading the way in environmentally friendly designs and all the efforts are helping the retail premises here to rely mainly on clean energy to be self-sustaining.”
Adding further to the importance of right lighting, Atul Jain of Atul Jewellers says, “If lights do not support the color scheme and the whole feel of the store it doesn’t look rhythmic to the eyes, to the brand image and looks a complete mismatch.”
To Conclude
The benefits of right lighting cannot be understated, especially so when the competition between offline and online retail stands at its peak today. Apt lighting design can lead customers to your store and allow them to experience the brand just the way you want them to Gehani rightly concludes on the importance of right lighting saying, “The best of designs fall fl at if lights are not well played with, while the most subtle and humble designs are enhanced with the correct lighting. While deciding on the lighting of a store we need to consider factors like age group of users, types of activities to be carried out in the store, colors used in the décor, source of natural light, materials being used, volume of space etc. Lights help define a full store and help highlight the décor and products/ services being offered. When implemented well, lights uplift the overall experience of customers.”

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