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Retailers lighting up the party


Of late, retailers are becoming more imaginative with store design and adopting store concepts to create an ambiance for customers. This includes both retro and modern approaches.

In Bluewater, stores are taking on a much more experiential focus. Apparel retailer White Stuff opened a new statement store at Bluewater last November. The specially designed emporium is made to feel like an old Georgian house and features antique furniture, a children’s play area, and an old-fashioned sweet shop. Conversely, there has also been a focus on cutting-edge tech in Bluewater’s Adidas Homecourt store and Thomas Cook store. Both feature new technology including Oculus Rift goggles which customers can wear to view their holiday before booking it.

But there is another trend popping up. Working with a much simpler concept, retailers, and also restaurants, are able to alter the entire mood of the store by mixing up their lighting options.

A case in point is the White Company store in Norwich, which now sees an all-LED store experience, courtesy of Reggiani Lighting, with a domestic, ‘home-from-home’ quality, taking customers on a journey through the space and engaging them with the products on offer.

“The lighting design concept was that the right level of lighting should be provided at the right time of day and for the right occasion,” explained David Dalziel, one of the designers. “This is being achieved by using three settings, ranging from daylight to a mellow mood. This enables the company to alter the ambience from bright and fresh in the morning, then softer through the afternoon to relaxing and enticing into the evening.

In parallel, the variety of lighting treatments throughout the space adds to the experience, creating impact with spotlights to the perimeter and centre floor merchandising and a soft wash of light infilling shadows on the wall systems. The design also encompasses focused decorative feature lighting suspended over key products with a bright daylight flood of light over the impressive staircase to encourage circulation,” he added.

Paul Nulty, Head of Practice at Paul Nulty Lighting Design, who has worked with clients including Hakkasan, Harrods and Nike to name a few, comments on the value of lighting in a retail environment:

“Lighting impacts on every aspect of a customer’s experience; from brand and product perception to consumer engagement and mood. Because of this, stores need to be regarded like stage sets – there should always be a focal point. In retail, this focus is the merchandise, where highlighting and showcasing certain products can be achieved most effectively through lighting!”

Imagine walking into your favourite designer accessories store, the latest handbag, no doubt accompanied with the latest price point, would be bathed in a spotlight, while a slight shadow is cast on the older styles. There’s really only one place you can go in that store.

“The key to employing effective and engaging light is in the correct use of contrast; the balance of light between the merchandise and the surrounding environment,” continues Nulty. “Good retail lighting ensures that the merchandise is brighter than its background, which is usually at a ratio of 3:1, but, some retailers have taken it to extremes where the contrast ratio is as high as 50:1 in favour of merchandise or at the other end of the spectrum, where the ratios are almost 1:1.

Any lighting design solution needs to be creative, dynamic and visually interesting, just like theatre, but it also needs to closely integrate with the fabric of the building, creating permeability and drawing the customer’s eye through the space. This can be achieved by lighting the back of the store brighter than the front, creating views across the space.

As lighting designers we typically talk about a ‘layered’ approach to lighting that more often than not includes three layers of light: background illumination, accent lighting and feature lighting. We are starting to see more of a movement towards accent lighting as it’s adjustable and helps to meet merchandising variations. LED products are also becoming more favourable; these tend to be less directional, therefore gaining contrast and drama becomes more difficult, so placement and creativity is key.

Considering lighting at every stage of the design process is essential – it allows designers to create the impactful and theatrical retail experience that consumer’s desire. As lighting impacts on every aspect of the retail experience – where would we be without it?”

Published on Monday 02 February by Veebs Sabharwal

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