Case Histories: Retail Lighting
Better Lighting to Boost Your Bottom Line
By John Phillip Bachner
Your check-out clerk inputs the wrong SKU or dollar amount. Stock is shipped from the warehouse and misplaced because the numbers are hard to read. Customers have a difficult time distinguishing varying shades of color, and perhaps reject an item because the color they saw in the store was not the same color they saw after returning home.
Do you need light? Obviously, all store owners are going to say “yes.” Common sense alone tells us that light is an integral part of the retail environment. The problem is, as long as the lights turn on and we only have to change a bulb every now and then, we take lighting for granted.
This is the root of lighting problems in many retail establishments – instead of looking at lighting as an ally, aiding us in getting our jobs done as well as significantly improving our bottom lines, too many retailers take it for granted. Lighting can work for us, rather than just with us, if we just learn how.
As retailers, we run a store. We’re busy with inventory, cash registers, and personnel. Now we’re being asked to also become lighting experts?
Actually, in lighting, just a little knowledge can be a great thing. Non-technical people make decisions about lighting everyday. The trick is to know enough to make the right decisions – those that will improve productivity, retail sales, safety and security, identification, and the bottom line.
Basic facts of brightness
Where do employees need to see better? Everywhere they look, basically. At the register, they need to input numbers correctly. In the stockroom, they need to be able to quickly identify numbers to efficiently take stock out and put it away in the right spot. If you think the stockroom can be underlit because customers don’t go back there, think about how long a customer must wait while someone searches around for a number or item that is difficult to see.
Improving your lighting system can be as easy as replacing the lamp. Many lamp types used today are carryovers from times past; the lighting industry has made great strides in lamp efficiency in the past several years. By replacing one lamp type with a more efficient version, retail managers can see significant savings with little change in overall lighting quality.
More light, more profit
Without spending a dime on new equipment, store managers can make significant changes in their lighting systems today. Maintenance is an often-overlooked element of lighting management that has the potential to pay big dividends. Planned lighting maintenance involves two key strategies: regular cleaning and timely lamp replacement.
Lamps and luminaries, like any other surface, collect dust and dirt over time. As this dust and dirt collect, they absorb the light and degrade the lamp’s surface. This causes several problems, among them poor lighting conditions and wasted energy. The lamps are working at full output, despite the fact that the light they produce is of poor quality. A regular cleaning schedule keeps lighting equipment working at peak efficiency.
Timely lamp replacement is also important. As lamps age, the lumens decrease slowly.
If lamps are replaced only at burn-out, they are not working as efficiently during the latter stages of their lives. I recommend group relamping, which involves replacing all the lamps in a building at the same time after a defined number of hours of use. In this way, light levels will remain consistently high. If you always rely on better maintenance, it may be possible to eliminate extra lighting. This can save your store significant sums of money.
A little more light on the subject
There are many lighting information resources available to retailers. Locally, illuminating engineers are available through your local electric utility or other sources, including the Yellow Pages of your local phone book.
A good start, however, would be to contact the National Lighting Bureau. The Bureau offers a series of publications intended to guide the non-technical reader through the maze of decisions involved in upgrading lighting systems. “The National Lighting Bureau Guide to Retail Lighting Management” is one of the Bureau’s best sellers. There is no better time to improve your lighting, and, at the same time, improve your bottom line!
How Lighting Affects Your Sales
One of the major benefits of better lighting in the retail business is greater profits and reduced expenses. Most retailers know all the tricks to producing higher sales, but lighting is often not part of the equation. Here are the many, multi-layered effects that lighting has on retail sales.
- Consumer Support – Customers need to be able to see the merchandise they are considering buying. Just having lighting on the selling floor is not necessarily doing the job. Whether your store is discount or upscale, lighting can play a dramatic role in how customers view merchandise. Can they see colors in their true hues? If you ever hear the complaint , “It looked so different in the store,” you’ve got a problem.
- Effective Displays – Putting together a beautiful, eye-catching display under the wrong lighting is like covering a piece of art with burlap. Displays are meant to attract customers and entice them to buy. It’s your job to make certain they do.
- Product Appearance – Few things are quite so amazing as jewelry under the correct lighting. People who are in the market for jewelry need to be dazzled, and light playing off the facets of gemstones can work wonders. The same is true for products with a highly polished finish, such as china, appliances, glassware and silver. Products with a better appearance lead to more sales.
- Impulse Purchases – Some retail stores make half their income on impulse purchases. Customers will buy on impulse only if they can clearly see these “gotta have it” products. The best way to point them out is with proper lighting that brings the signage and items to the customer’s attention.
Three More Ways Better Lighting Benefits Your Store
Here are a few more often-overlooked benefits to better lighting for your retail store. Keep these three in mind when considering the importance of improved illumination.
- Outdoor Light – It’s difficult to sell to customers unless they come into your store. You must create an environment that looks very inviting. Also, don’t forget that the best lighting turns your store into an advertisement for itself. Those passing by who see the store will remember it when they think about shopping.
- Safety and Security – Case histories show that improving outdoor lighting will improve a store’s bottom line. At Fairmont Fair in Syracuse, NY, a new lighting system helped the mall reduce manned security patrols and snow removal time. It also helped increase tenant occupancy and sales for a combined benefit of $102,500 for the mall’s owners and $1.2 million for store owners. If you eliminate the dark areas outside your store where criminals can conduct their business, you invite more customers to shop there.
- Fewer Legal Problems – A shopper slips and falls on a hazard that could have easily been illuminated. A shopper is assaulted outside the store, or is involved in an accident in a poorly lit parking lot. All of these scenarios lead to the store being sued and, sometimes, a costly insurance settlement. Better lighting can help avoid these problems, and at the same time you might be able to reduce your insurance costs.
Reprinted with permission from Retail Store Image, March 1996, published by Intertec Publishing.