Case Histories: Retail Lighting
Better Lighting, Better Profits
By John Philip Bachner
How important is lighting to giftware business? It’s easy to tell. Just turn off all the lighting inside and outside your store and see what happens to sales. An absurd notion? Of course, but, just for the sake of discussion, assume you do turn off all the lights, and then, ever so gradually, you begin to turn them back on. As your store becomes better illuminated, more people will begin to shop there.
Are we implying that there is a direct correlation between the amount of light you use in and around your store and sales? No. But we do want to emphasize that, at the opposite pole from no lighting at all is that point which we could call optimal; that point at which the lighting is as good as it could possibly be.
Are you there? Probably not, but the investment of time, money and effort to get there may be surprisingly small, just as the benefits from making the investment could be surprisingly large.
Boosting profits with lighting rises far above energy savings alone, going straight to the top line. It can help build traffic for your store, help enhance the appearance of what you have to sell, and increase
Optimal lighting can improve productivity, reduce errors, enhance safety and lower insurance rates. High-Benefit Lighting is a concept that the National Lighting Bureau has created to refer to an optimal lighting system that has been individualized for a retail establishment. It does not imply that specific manufacturer’s lamps, luminaries, ballasts, controls, or other components are better than others.
However, the only persons and organizations legally permitted to associate themselves with High-Benefit Lighting are those who sponsor the National Lighting Bureau, thus signifying their authority on the subject! Note, too, that High-Benefit Lighting does not signify a specific approach. There is no one right way to illuminate a giftware store; there are hundreds of right ways. Regrettably, there are thousands of wrong ways, many of which focus on energy savings, without considering the why of how lighting leads to greater profits.
This does not mean that energy efficiency is unimportant; far from it. To be considered High-Benefit Lighting, an electric illumination system must be energy-efficient. But energy-efficiency alone does not mean that a lighting system can provide the full range of benefits and the sometimes extraordinary value associated with High-Benefit Lighting. The key concept is to first design the system in light of individual needs, then ensure that the least possible amount of energy is consumed in meeting those needs.
Focusing on energy savings alone would be like renting a Volkswagen to move a houseful of furniture. While the car would get far better mileage than a moving van, the moving van is required to fill the needs of the job.
First and foremost, you need to attract customers. Customer attraction can be pursued through a variety of means–advertising, for example–but, when you hope to have nighttime shoppers, you must have
effective lighting outside your store or outside the center where your store is located.
And with respect to the latter, the National Lighting Bureau’s Fairmont Fair Mall case history is particularly instructive. Located in Camillus, New York, the mall was not doing well, in part, customer surveys revealed, because of security concerns. Being the most obvious evidence of better security, lighting was the solution seized upon. The goal–which was achieved–was not only to improve parking lot illumination, but to contribute to the overall appearance of the center after dark.
As a consequence of the improved lighting, more people began to shop at the mall at night and, thanks to word-of-mouth, more people began shopping there during the day, too. The increased traffic resulted in more sales. More sales led to a lower vacancy rate, which, in turn, led to even more sales. The merchants were happy and, of course, management was happy, given that its rents were based on a percentage of gross.
The new lighting system provided better security at Fairmont Fair; vandalism to parked cars reached its peak during the last Christmas with the old lighting system. During the next Christmas, with the new lighting installed, vandalism was negligible. Furthermore, because security forces could see better and more quickly, fewer were needed to get the job done, saving $5,000 per year.
And, because of the better lighting, snow plows could get their jobs done faster, with less damage, saving another $7,500 each year. Also, the new lighting system was more energy-efficient than the old one, achieving annual savings just over $800. However, given the cost of the new lighting system, payback would not have occurred for more than 100 years, based solely on the value of energy savings. Considering all the benefits, however, payback was achieved in less than 100 days.
What’s the appearance of your store at night, or the appearance of the center where your store is located? Does it give people a feeling of safety and security? Does the lighting help create an image for your store? Does it say “discount,” or “upscale,” or “youthful”? Does the lighting help make your store an advertisement for itself after the sun goes down? Is the lighting unique, to make your store look unique? If it doesn’t, realize that it could.
Inside the Store
Indoors, the lighting you have should he suited to what you’re selling. Silver, gold, gems, and crystal objects often took best under tightly focused spotlights that can bring out the sparkle. Fabrics usually look best with softer light. Impulse purchase goods should be highlighted to attract attention. Of course, what you have for sale, and where you have items located, will change somewhat frequently, making it important that you have a somewhat flexible lighting system, one that permits you to
easily change the luminaires (fixtures), and not merely alter their position or angle.
What about the color of your lighting? Different types of lamps (light bulbs and tubes) produce different color effects, which is why someone who buys something on Monday may bring it back on Tuesday, because it didn’t took the same in their home as it did in your store. If certain objects are intended for daytime use, lamps that emulate daylight are most appropriate. If you haven’t seen modern fluorescent lamps that emulate daylight, be prepared for a pleasant surprise. The same lamps, dimmed, could be appropriate for items intended for use at night.
Lighting can also be of great value in storage areas, helping to reduce packing errors and also reducing the potential for accidents. When the potential for accidents is reduced, you should be sure to work with your insurance agent to point out what you have done. In a number of NLB case histories, better lighting led to lower insurance premiums, because of the smaller risk involved.
Where to Begin?
The best place to start is with an evaluation, and that’s something that you really need a trained specialist for. Be cautious! A number of individuals who provide advisory or consulting services are not necessarily equipped to deal with the issue of High-Benefit Lighting. They may be well-qualified to help you save energy, but what if the changes result in a slight downturn in sales, productivity or safety?
An effective, qualified expert, with a good track record, should be able to tell you what can be done to improve on what you do have, and how much it will cost. Will it be worth your while to invest in a top-quality
That’s a question that the Pillowtex Corporation probably asked itself before retaining the services of a top lighting system designer for its new showroom in the Dallas World Trade Center. The designer specified glass shelves and, beneath each, a simple, inexpensive clip-on low-voltage light that resulted in the pillows on display appearing to almost float in air. Some additional visual effects complemented the shelf lighting, creating a museum-type appearance.
According to the company’s director of product development, “Shortly after we opened the new showroom, we had a dramatic and wholly unanticipated jump in showroom orders. We can attribute that jump almost totally to the new lighting and the environment which it created for us. In fact, by actual count, an average of three out of every five new buyers who come into our showroom remark on the lighting. It improves not only the appearance of our products, but the image of our company.”
The additional cost of High-Benefit Lighting? A well-designed system will not usually cost much more than an inefficient system. In fact, it may cost less. And the same applies to energy consumption. A High-Benefit Lighting system may cost no more to operate and maintain than one whose only benefit is low energy consumption. The key is having the system do what it’s supposed to: boost profits by increasing income and lowering expenses.
Reprinted with permission from Giftware News. October 2000.