In Apparel Magazine, Mark explains why good lighting design is vital for your retail store.

Imagine shopping in the dark. Hard to imagine? But remember that your customer’s experience of your store and merchandise is primarily driven by what he or she sees. And, unless you are trading outside in the sunshine, what they see is entirely governed by your lighting. So, let’s not treat retail lighting as just another mounted ceiling service. Make it draw attention to your store and its products as well as creating an appropriate sense of drama and ambience. Many studies have shown that this DOES increase sales. Obviously lighting can be very technical but I believe that YOU should decide how your store should be lit and not leave it to some computer lighting programme.

Here are 10 points to get you started:

1. Where & What

Decide what you want to draw your customer’s attention to and focus lighting on that.

2. Beware of Bland Lighting

Retail selling is about drama and getting customers interested in your stock. Don’t just wash light everywhere; create some highlight zones and softer areas.

3. Look!

Take time to look at your shop’s lighting as customers do. Does it stand out from its neighbours, does it look exciting or featureless, and are lights actually aiming at something worthwhile?

4. Light the Walls

Remember that most retail stock is displayed vertically so avoid office-type lighting which throws much of its light straight down.

5. Adjust

Spend a few moments adjusting your lighting – especially spotlights – so that they shine where they will make the most impact. I’ll bet that at least half your current lights aren’t pointing at anything in particular! Adjust window lights when your windows are dressed.

6. Maintain

Replace older fluorescent tubes and ancient fittings completely. Newer technology will save running costs if chosen correctly. It is also amazing what cleaning reflectors or diffusers (the Perspex covers over fluorescents) will do to light output.

7. Experiment

Try a few different spotlights or bulbs with beam angles and colour temperatures before you commit to new fittings. Narrower beams often give more punch and waste less light. Different colours (e.g. warm or cool light) make a big difference to the appearance of your stock and your CUSTOMER.

8. Light the Customer

In fashion or jewellery stores, for example, it is not necessarily the PRODUCT we are lighting that matters, it is more how the CUSTOMER looks when wearing the merchandise. If the lighting makes them looked washed out or casts shadows across their face, it will be hard to make a sale. Pay particular attention to fitting room and mirror lighting.

9. Do an Audit

Get a good lighting designer or really knowledgeable lighting supplier to discuss how you can not only improve light performance (this normally equals improved sales, remember) but also reduce energy costs. This will often involve some up-front expenditure but often this will be more than offset by energy savings.

10. Do it Now!

If most retailers managed their stock as badly as they manage their lighting, they would be out of business by now. By using imagination and current technology (bear in mind that most light fittings have been completely superseded in the last five years), you can really will cut costs and improve sales. But if you don’t do something now, or you probably never will!