Hit the Highlights
The right lighting can make your store — and your merchandise — a lot more attractive.
Ever walk into a poorly or harshly lit environment? Regardless of where it is, it’s a turn-off. And it’s especially off-putting to that potential buyer as they make a bee-line for the exit instead of the cash register. Let’s add lighting to that list of overlooked facets of successful retail marketing and merchandising.
In addition to the product, signage, display and floor plan, lighting establishes a store’s image, shepherds customers inside and focuses their attention, makes your product more attractive and visible, and encourages sales.
Ron Harwood, president of Illuminating Concepts in Farmington Hills, Mich., says proper lighting “should not be bigger than the product itself, yet should enhance textures.” Though he cites fluorescent light has being economically efficient, “point source lighting such as halogen creates a whiter form of light and good color rendering.”
Harwood allows that in a larger retail space, both types of lighting can be combined. “Fluorescent down the middle of the store where there’s more bulk merchandise and halogen to focus more on individual items and special displays,” he says. “Lighting can create a theme and decorative enhancement by using wall sconces, column lighting or suspended fixtures that are attention-getters, and they further elevate the shopping experience.”
Regardless, Harwood says, “There should be a rhythm to lighting and no matter what the size of your retail space, you should hire a store planner who will create the most efficient and economical use of light and space.”
Sam O’Donahue of Desgrippes Gobe Group in New York City agrees with Harwood’s assessment of fluorescent lighting. “You should never light your entire retail space with it, as it allows for no tonal differences and can be overly bright and annoying,” O’Donahue says. “But as ambient light, it works fine through the center of your store.”
O’Donahue suggests the way you use the light often makes the difference vs. the type of light employed. He also emphasizes the importance of maintaining your lighting system, citing that as you move product around, you should also ensure your lighting is mobile and flexible enough “to be relevant to changing displays.” Adjustable track fixtures may be used and re-focused as product displays are rearranged.
“Whatever the size of your store, you can’t afford not to take lighting seriously,” O’Donahue says, reiterating the necessity of hiring a store planner for this function. “Understanding [return on investment] on lighting will ensure increased sales, which will cover the cost of your lighting expense,” he says. “And that’s where the opportunity lies: As tennis becomes more mainstream, people will transfer their shopping experience from one venue to another. Pro shop retailers need to make that connection.”
Kate Kreimer of retail design firm FRCH Design Worldwide in Cincinnati suggests that floors and walls be very well lit. “With tennis becoming more technical and specialized, customers need to see the details.”
Kreimer recommends the use of HID lighting, which she says “is very efficient, provides excellent color- rendering and adds more ‘sparkle’ to the space.” In HID lighting, a capsule of gas replaces the light bulb filament and the amount of light produced is greater than a standard halogen bulb, while consuming less power. It more closely approximates natural daylight and lasts three to five times longer than a regular halogen bulb, she says.
Lighting the Way
- Avoid over-lighting and under-lighting.
- Put your light source close to your merchandise.
- For general or ambient lighting, use less expensive fluorescent fixtures.
- Make use of different forms of lighting — to contrast colors and textures, show off special displays, for signage, and to focus on smaller items. But don’t use too many lighting patterns, since they will create confusion and customer fatigue.
- Use the lightest colors on walls, ceilings and shelves to increase overall brightness and yield more reflected light.
- Hire a store planner who will ultimately provide you with the most flattering and cost-efficient lighting systems for your store, ensuring your return on investment.
- Thoughtful, well-executed lighting enhances product, creates excitement and increases sales.
See all articles by Cynthia Sherman
About the Author
Cynthia Sherman is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.