Self-illuminated fixtures keep shoppers’ focus on merchandise
Elemental LED’s case lighting brings attention to the merchandise at Regis Galerie at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas. PHOTO: PAUL T. STOCUM
By Annemarie Mannion
As retailers consider how to best highlight their products, they shouldn’t be looking to the ceiling alone. Self-illuminated fixtures can call attention to merchandise, showcase its quality, and influence purchasing decisions.
“Throughout the ages, light has come from above. But with new technology, we’ve turned that equation on its head,” says Brad Stewart, EVP of sales for Hera Lighting, which designs, develops, and manufactures lighting solutions for cabinets, furniture, and displays. “LEDs allow environments to be designed with lighting where it needs to be, instead of just from the ceiling.”
Ceiling lights are important, but Stewart says LED-equipped fixtures can keep customers in stores longer and keep their eyes on products. “Considering 68% of purchases are impulse buys, this has been proven to increase sales,” he says.
Stewart says fixture lighting has caused retailers to ask key questions about how to better illuminate their environments: What did we pay for the ceiling lighting? What did we pay to have it installed? What are we paying in energy to get the lighting from the ceiling to the retail floor? Do we have three times more light on the floor of our store than we do product on the shelves?
Technology such as JESCO’s SEAMLESS, whose interconnectable lit corners provide uninterrupted light output, enables store fixtures to better influence purchasing decisions.
Raising the bar
Spurring the emphasis on case lighting are continued improvements in available products. One of these, of course, is the advent of LEDs themselves— semiconductor diodes that emit light when voltage is applied. They’re a vast improvement over the halogen and fluorescent technologies of the past.
“Halogens are so hot they cause air conditioning units to work harder,” Stewart says. “We used to say halogens are great heating elements that happen to provide a little light.”
But beyond that, LEDs are getting more powerful while using less energy, notes Nate Bruins, director of sales and business development for SELF Electronics, which manufactures LED fixtures, power supplies, sensors, timers, switches, and power outlets.
“Two years ago, if you were getting 100 lumens per watt, you were doing well,” he says. “Today, we’re moving toward getting a minimum of 120 lumens per watt.”
Another energy-saving innovation is the ability to build a sensor into a fixture that triggers the lighting to go off a half-hour after a store closes. “That’s an extra 11 hours a day that you can have those fixtures off,” Bruins says. “The savings are incredible.”
More subtly lit spaces are another benefit of recently improved technology, says Ryan McHugh, director of business solutions for Elemental LED, a provider of linear, accent, and task LED lighting.
“Recent trends are pushing lighting to become more discreet, while providing even more illumination,” he says. “If the lighting is too obtrusive, it can deter customers from spending the necessary time evaluating their purchase decision and push them away from the display.”
Ensuring the proper amount
Lighting that allows customers to feel at ease as they shop is crucial. “If you’re selling a $10,000 handbag, you don’t want people to feel uncomfortable in a retail environment due to poor lighting,” Bruins says.
The tone and amount of light directed on a product should depend on the product, experts agree. “You could definitely make things too bright,” Bruins says. “If you’re wanting to display a rose gold watch, you’d want to use a warmer light. If you’re displaying Swarovski crystal, a white-blue light would really make those crystals pop.”
While light shouldn’t be distracting or uncomfortable for consumers, McHugh says the most common mistake retailers make is not incorporating enough light into a display.
“If there is a well-lit retail environment, a designer should factor in light that is two times as bright as the ambient lighting,” he says. “This ensures that the fixture lighting is not washed out by the ambient lighting in the space.”
Many retailers and brands are also taking a broad-picture approach to how lighting is used, Bruins says. “We’re seeing a lot of brands and retailers focus on consistency in their lighting,” he says.
McHugh agrees that retailers are taking more interest in how to best light their stores and products. “Retailers and brands are becoming more involved with lighting design for their spaces and fixtures,” he says. “This has led to an increase in light fixtures and in retail environments overall incorporating unique lighting elements.”
McHugh cites Target as an example of a retailer using lighting to distinguish departments from each another rather than relying only on overhead signage.
The heightened interest is well placed, as experts agree that lighting can affect shoppers’ moods and their decisions to buy.
“Proper lighting should draw a customer to a display or fixture, causing longer dwell time, which has been proven to increase sales,” McHugh says.
Annemarie Mannion is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area.
Case lighting helps retailers like Target distinguish departments. PHOTO: ED WONSEK