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Opinion: full spectrum lighting adds emotional and commercial value to retail

Full spectrum lighting renders colours more vividly

High quality lighting enhances the perception of value of both merchandise and the retail environments in which it is sold.

The considerable research available on the positive effects of quality lighting in retail indicates that failure to adopt the most recent advances in lighting technology puts retailers at risk of missing the opportunity to expand business.

There is a considerable ROI to be gained from full-spectrum lighting that can ensure retailers have happier, more loyal customers, increased sales, and lower operating costs in the form of energy savings and lower replacement expenditures.

High quality lighting creates a specific mood for a store that is an integral part of the brand of the retailer, and enhances not only products but the entire experience.

Humans understand colour – in a million years of evolution, our eyes, brains, and bodies have learned what perfect, full-spectrum light means. We are attuned to this and respond emotionally in positive ways. For example, harmonious, continuous visible spectrum LEDs render reds and cyans dramatically, and have no spectral “blue-peak” to harm the eyes or disrupt natural human rhythms.

The best lighting, with full-spectrum and particularly with a high Colour Render Index enhances the appearance of customers themselves, rendering skin tones and hair in a more flattering light-this is especially important in apparel and jewellery retailing as well as in hospitality, where the positive effects of socialising is enhanced when people look better.

In fact, a recent survey by energy company Npower revealed that nearly a third of people in the UK had walked out of a restaurant or pub because the lighting was poor quality. Nearly 9 in 10 said lighting quality would affect their experience.

Lighting revolution

Innovation in lighting technology is crucial for all retail environments to improve the shopping environment while reducing costs. It’s an area where Nobel Prize winner Dr Shuji Nakamura has focused much of his research and development over the past two decades.

Dr Nakamura, started the revolution in lighting through his invention of the blue LED, making it possible to produce white light from LEDs for the first time. His recent work has focused on full-spectrum lighting – effectively emulating natural daylight, through advances in chip-technology.

The GaN on GaN chip innovation is crucial for the next step change to ‘LED 2.0’, because there are very few crystal defects compared to normal LEDs, so providing much higher quality light. His company, Soraa, is pioneering the use of GaN on GaN technology with clear benefits for the retail sector.

The quality of white is also a challenge with standard blue light LED. Whiteness in apparel is achieved by fluorescent whitening agents (FWAs) and whites under blue LEDs look yellow, even soiled. Full spectrum LED lamps, in contrast, makes whites look crisp and bright.

Research has shown that contrasts, the effect of light and dark areas, are decisive in any retail environment. These contrasts are enhanced by the careful use of directional display lighting. Customer behaviour in retail areas is influenced significantly by perception and a sense of well-being. Light is an important design tool which impacts these parameters.

High quality lighting makes customers more comfortable, and customers who are more comfortable in an environment tend to stay longer and shop more.

Full spectrum lighting can greatly enhance the desired traffic flow through a retail space, directing customers to intended point of sale areas. Because light conveys emotions, it creates and reinforces ambience and atmosphere and makes it easier for people to find their way around.

A study at a London House of Fraser store shoe display, by independent researcher Colette Knight and peer reviewed by University College London, found a strong link between the quality of accent light sources, in terms of colour rendering ability and in particular the rendering of deep reds, and the attention-grabbing potential of retail displays, according to the outcome of an on-site evaluation by end-users and lighting designers.

Retailers can only benefit from full spectrum LED lighting as the commercial successes of high quality lighting installations in US retail environments show. For example, Colonial Park Plaza, Pennsylvania, installed a new lighting system that provided more light and efficiency giving what shoppers characterised as new “sparkle” to the centre’s promenade area, as well as depth and brilliance to surface colours.

The retrofit also underlined that most significant aspect of light is not its quantity, but rather its quality. Good lighting is electric illumination provided where and when it is needed, with quality attributes, including quantity or luminance created specifically for the spaces, tasks, and people involved.

As a result, the mall’s appearance brightened, and more people started shopping there. In fact, traffic count increased by a third after the lighting programme was implemented, merchants’ sales increased 38 per cent and profits increased 19 per cent. Given the centre’s new appearance and traffic flow, more retailers opened stores there, cutting the centre’s vacancy rate 32 per cent and in turn increasing sales.

Full spectrum LED lighting has many benefits for retailers who genuinely seek to provide the highest quality shopping experience for their customers. As a double bonus, retailers should reduce energy costs and carbon footprint.

Mark Sait is managing director of energy efficiency specialist SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com