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Summer 2012
Light On!

Not only is your store’s lighting important to showcase your merchandise with flair; it’s also an important part of your operating budget. Find out how you can get maximum impact for minimum investment.

Lighting can affect how a customer feels in your store, how much he or she enjoys the shopping experience, and how often that customer will return. Gift shops can differentiate themselves by using warm lighting that contrasts favorably against harsh, fluorescent lighting used by chain stores.

Just by giving your store’s lighting a makeover, you can hope to sell more product, save money on your energy bills, and perhaps get a healthy tax refund for choosing energy-efficient products. Equally important, says Mike Lehman, how you choose to light your store speaks volumes about the image you want to convey. Lehman, LC, LEED AP ID+C, is the vice president of professional lighting design company, Con-Tech Lighting in Northbrook, IL. He points out that stores illuminated throughout only with generic fluorescent lighting convey a sense of cost-consciousness. “Multi-layered lighting, using accent and decorative lighting fixtures convey the unique personality and style of the store, giving the store a more distinct and memorable personality,” Lehman adds. Customers feel that if you’re successful enough to create a quality store experience, which results in large part from the store lighting design, they will classify your shop, and your products, as more upscale.

Here’s a quick walk-through of some areas of your gift shop and what kinds of lighting work best for each. Depending on your budget and time constraints, you can choose to work on individual sections with a lighting professional or redo the entire store.

1. Store Windows

Your window displays announce your store’s personality and show off your most enticing product lines. The creativity and branding of your front windows is enhanced by lighting effects that stand out in contrast to the lighting of stores and restaurants around your shop. Well-designed lighting, says Lehman, is a “powerful attraction and creates drama, engaging the passersby with drama, color, and beauty which entices them to visit your store.”

What to ask for: Track lighting, downlighting or uplighting, portable lit LED cubes and accent lighting such as glowing spheres, perhaps your illuminated store name and logo.

2. The Entryway

“There are two main goals for your store’s entryway,” says Lehman. “Inviting lighting right at your store’s entrance creates visual appeal and draws passersby into your shop. To them, it’s not necessarily what’s inside the shop, it’s how it appears, how enticing it looks when they are walking by the store.”

Lighting effects must be enticing both in daylight hours, and when it’s dark outside. Ideally, you’ll have the ability to switch on certain lighting effects in daytime, and at dusk switch to other lighting effects to create an attractive glow. Customers will be able to see a short distance into the store, so the entryway lighting could lead the eye further in to a strategically lit jewelry case by your checkout area, which also could have modern pendant lights in funky or upscale colors overhead.

“Look at your inside entryway as a space for the human eye to adjust,” says Lehman. “It can take several minutes for the eye to fully adjust to a new light level. If it’s too bright in the space, customers may not want to enter the store.” If it’s too dark, customers coming in from very sunny outdoors will find themselves uncomfortably squinting to see.” In the first six to eight feet of your entryway, recessed or track lighting helps define your transition area and essentially readies your customers to see and appreciate your products further in the store.

What to ask for: Recessed or track lighting, uplighting, wall washes, accent lighting, inset floor-level lighting along the sides of steps or a ramp.

3. Cash Wrap

“This section is ignored by a lot of shop owners,” says Lehman. “Customers might not know where to [bring their purchases] if your staff members aren’t behind the counter at the moment, so be sure that your cash register area is easily [distinguishable] in the store.” This area ideally maintains the theme that you’re establishing all throughout your store, with perhaps pendant lights in the same glass shade as smaller pendants around the perimeter of your shop.

“Be sure your overhead lighting provides enough illumination for customers to easily read their receipts, and for your staff to easily perform their jobs,” Lehman suggests. “Direct lights onto work surfaces, but not in a way that creates glare. Install an illumination effect that shows off your logo. You put a lot of work and investment into your logo design, so show it off and make it more memorable.” Lehman also suggests hanging pendant lights overhead, placed on the sides of and in between cash registers.

What to ask for: Pendant lighting, downlights, track lighting, case lighting, accent lighting, task lighting optimization.

4. Focus on Fabric

A Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 85+ and Correlated Color Temperatures (CCT) of 2700-3000 Kelvin light bring out the true colors of fabric items such as shirts, handbags, scarves, socks, tote bags and other products. To create rich texture, be sure to have lighting aimed at the products from above or the side to create shadow and depth. You want your lighting to project onto the product, not into your customer’s eyes, so create a layered lighting effect with limited general lighting and then use stronger accent lights on the merchandise. This accent light, as well as decorative lighting like pendants or colored LED cubes set on display cases, will direct the shopper to the display areas.

5. Making Jewelry Dazzle

There is no one right way to light a jewelry display case, since your products will change with seasons, trends and constantly evolving product lines. You may have crystal jewelry in your case now and silver or pearls there six months from now. Different lighting effects maximize the sparkle or shine of different jewelry products, so it’s best to follow Lehman’s advice when lighting jewelry cases: Use the same type and strength of light outside the case as inside it. “You want your jewelry item to look just as good, if not better, when a customer requests a piece to be brought out to be held and inspected,” Lehman says. You’ll lose the sale if a necklace shimmers in the case but looks dull in the poorly lit space above the case.

“3500 degree Kelvin with 90+ CRI (Color Rendering Index) light displays jewelry beautifully, and shows off all the color and fire within the jewelry.” Lehman says. “I don’t recommend purely in-case lighting. Light the jewelry case area from the front, the sides and above, with track or recessed fixtures to give those jewelry pieces more sparkle, fire and magic a few feet in front of the case for proper customer evaluation.”

What to ask for: Display lighting, case lighting, accent lighting, angled lighting, layers of light, light colors and strengths, pendant lights.


Sharon Naylor

Naylor is the author of 30 wedding books, including Your Special Wedding Vows and Your Special Wedding Toasts.SharonNaylor.net

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