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    Lighting for Fashion Retailers

    How it Can Support the Shopper Journey

    These days, shopping is more and more something you do with a smartphone.


    And yet the brick-and-mortar store remains an important element in the shopping journey, offering shoppers a sensory experience that they can’t get online. Therefore, it’s not surprising that fashion retailers should go out of their way to provide shoppers with the best and most immersive in-store experiences possible.


    Enter lighting, which retailers and brands are increasingly using as a sensory element of in-store marketing.

    What’s the right sort of lighting for retail?


    As we all know, lighting quality is largely subjective: people may experience the quality of light differently simply due to natural variations in their visual systems. That means that when it comes to retail lighting, there’s no one way to do it correctly. Yet the challenge remains: A retail lighting scheme has to both appeal to shoppers and communicate key brand values and messaging.


    Below are some considerations that retailers, architects and designers should keep in mind when designing lighting for brick-and-mortar fashion retail points. solution to apply at a given facility, or how to devise a lighting system for a new facility. 


    1. Beam shape

    Beam shape, the way luminaires distribute light, is crucial. In some applications, like offices, beams need to comply with certain norms. In fashion retailing, they need to support a store’s communication strategy and aesthetics. Ideally, the composition of the beams or the lighting plan creates an experience that can be used to attract shoppers to different areas within the store.


    A Signify study has indicated that shoppers prefer a narrow or medium beam that’s more intense at its center and that’s characterized by smooth beam decay, thus reducing the halo effect.


    There are two other considerations as regards beam shape that we need to keep in mind:


    a. The optical system

    Optical systems using lenses are generally better able to focus a beam than those that use reflector solutions. That’s because reflectors inevitably allow some light to spill out without bouncing off the reflector.


    b. Candela

    High contrast helps in attracting shoppers’ attention and guiding it to certain products. Narrow beams help produce high contrast. Remember two things:


    • Haloes reduce contrast and lend a washed-out effect
    • Beam intensity as expressed in candelas (cd) is a much more useful classification than, say, lumen package when you’re selecting products that create highlights


    Thanks to their lens technology, Philips TrueFashion beams provide excellent glare control and negligible spill light and can significantly help optimize contrast in a store. The compact lenses also allow for spot design miniaturization, making integrating lighting into store concepts easy.


    The result is a less obtrusive lighting installation and a more pleasant environment for the shopper.


    Top image  

    Top row: TrueFashion luminaires equipped with lenses—Philips Fashion Proof optics—create more contrast due to the lack of a halo and to higher beam intensity.

    Bottom row: Reflectors for the dispersion of light on a surface or object.


    Bottom images

    Left: spotlight solution with 12° beam using lenses. Right: spotlight solution with 12° beam using reflectors. 

    2. Brightness, or luminance

    Luminance distribution within the field of view is another important lighting design criterion.


    For a given light level, differences in luminance will depend on how light reflects from different surfaces. Appropriate for a visual task as a given luminance level might be, it won’t necessarily give an acceptable luminance balance in an interior as a whole.


    This balance, or lack of it, will depend on the room’s surface reflectance. Good lighting design therefore to a large extent will have to go hand in hand with interior design.


    3. Contrast and uniformity

    Contrast, in technical terms, is an effect of the difference in appearance of two parts of a field of vision that the eye sees simultaneously or successively. The immediate surroundings, the eye’s level of adaptation, and other secondary factors, such as light sources that cause glare within the field of vision, can affect it.


    Contrast can be crucial to fashion retail, enhancing certain sightlines and drawing attention to the right places, thus helping guide shoppers through a store and to points within it. In general, if you get the right contrast you’ll create a visually appealing store environment, and thus boost engagement.

    Contrast and uniformity fashion
    The beams on the backwall lenses create a strong contrast: There’s high beam intensity and no halo. This effect is likely to attract shoppers to the back of the store and increase shopper dwell time. The light panels also clearly guide shoppers to the back.

    a. Accent factor

    How strong does luminance contrast need to be? “Accent factor,” which describes the relationship between the brightness of an object and its surroundings, helps us answer that question.


    An accent factor of 2 indicates an accent that’s twice as bright as its immediate surroundings; a factor of 2 is also roughly the threshold for noticeable contrast. An accent factor of 5 means an accent that’s five times as bright as the surroundings, an effect that tends in the direction of the theatrical. It is recommended to use accent factors of at least 5 to attract attention. (For a truly theatrical effect, the threshold would be 15.)


    b. Uniform vs. contrast lighting

    A study conducted by Hyunjoo Oh1 suggests that “lighting should be designed strategically” to take into consideration “shoppers’ walking path” and “decision-making phases.”


    The study report adds: “Focused lighting may be more effective in the final decision-making stage where shoppers more closely evaluate individual attributes of any products under consideration versus in the early browsing stage of evaluating available options."


    4. Color temperature

    Color temperature characterizes the appearance of light that a light source emits. We measure it in Kelvin (K) values.


    The images below show the effects that different color temperatures (2700K and 3500K) have in the same space. In the image on the left, “warm” materials like wood are better rendered, whereas “cold” materials like concrete or steel look better under the higher color temperature that the image on the right depicts. Generally, lower color temperature is more closely associated with a “cozy” or warm ambiance, while a higher color temperature makes a more formal impression and increases alertness.


    Note, however, that cultural differences also play a role in how people perceive color temperature and in what color temperatures they prefer.

    Color temperature: 2700K  
    Color temperature: 3500K

    5. Color rendering

    The color rendering index (CRI) describes a light source’s ability to put across an illuminated object’s natural color appearance. It shows how realistically different colors appear under certain lighting conditions. “True colors,” of course, don’t exist: People tend to judge colors on the basis of what they consider to be natural, or “true”—and that tends to manifest itself most often in natural daylight.


    CRI has a maximum value of 100, which occurs when the spectral distributions of the test source and the reference source are identical. Professionals widely consider a CRI of lower than 80 to be unsuitable for retail applications.


    That said, a high CRI score might not help a retailer most effectively highlight a certain piece of merchandise’s different colors.



    Philips LED flavors

    Philips LED flavors are dedicated light sources devised to illuminate fashion merchandise and to make particular color, or black and white, elements “pop.”


    Each flavor has a unique spectral composition, while consistently applying a CRI value of above 90 and color temperature of 3000K (this combination is number coded as 930). Philips Premium Color compared to a standard LED source, for example, enhances the contrast between colors and whites. On the other hand, Philips Premium White creates a warmer impression when rendering colors and whites while being highly energy efficient. Retailers can use these dedicated light recipes to draw attention to particular points of sale or to communicate brand messaging.

    A recreational sports lighting design checklist | Philips Lighting

    Guidelines for illuminating key retail areas

    What follow are some rules of thumb for illuminating display windows, sales floors, and fitting rooms.


    The shop window is a brick-and-mortar retailer’s first point of contact with shoppers and the perfect place to express brand identity. Using dynamic lighting, a retailer can stand out on a busy shopping street, drawing customers inside.


    Research has shown that dynamic effects can increase a window’s “stopping power.” With the support of Signify, the high-end Milan-based men’s clothier Eral 55 experimented with dynamic lighting in its display window for five weeks. On weekdays, the dynamic lighting increased the number of people who stopped at the shop windows by 11 percent over static lighting. This was a clear demonstration that dynamic lighting can make the difference for stores when it comes to attracting shoppers.


    Eral 55 also found that significantly more people entered the store after stopping at the shop window. Especially during weekdays and in the afternoon, a time of day in which the street sees low foot traffic, dynamic lighting boosted footfall by 19 percent as compared to static lighting. (Click here to read the full case study.)


    If you’re thinking of applying dynamic and easily configurable and changeable lighting, look at options like Philips TrueFashion EasyAim, which will give you the flexibility to design and change luminaire angles as you stand in comfort in front of your shop window using a mobile app—instead of mounting a ladder behind the glass. Or check out TrueFashion Highlight, part of the Dynamic window concept, which will provide you with dynamic effects and the sort of high contrast level that can help you create more stopping power. Dynamic window comes with an intuitive mobile app and lighting controls, giving you the flexibility to design your own lighting scenes.


    Another key area where you can influence a shopper’s journey is on the actual sales floor. A retailer may want to extensively communicate its brand values, draw attention to specific points of sale, or guide shoppers along a specific route. Depending on the purpose, you may want to create a high level of uniformity, thus providing good visibility across the entire store and letting shoppers see where they want to go. If so, try solutions like Philips OneSpace, which lends perfect uniformity thanks to its surface-of-light design. (Click here to read how Bershka applied it as part of their new store concept.)


    Or you may want to draw attention to specific points of sales using different spot light solutions like Philips TrueFashion or GreenSpace Projector, both of which will effectively highlight certain products and increase contrast. Philips TrueFashion narrow beams will give you even greater contrast when you use Philips Fashion Proof optics with lenses to enhance the in-store experience and support shoppers during decision-making. You can also use architectural color-changing lighting solutions like Color Kinetics iColor Flex or iColor Cove to highlight certain areas—shelves, for example.


    Though even experienced professionals often overlook it, another key area in a fashion retailer is the fitting room. Since it’s the place where buying decisions tend to get made, retailers have every interest in putting shoppers in the best light within it.


    Research shows that pleasant frontal light, or a combination of frontal light with appropriate downlight (illumination from above) creates a particularly pleasant light setting. (Using downlight on its own will cast unflattering shadows.) In addition to providing frontal lighting, solutions like Signify’s fitting room lighting concept give you customization options. Using them you can do things like match lighting to the visual mood of the event for which a customer is buying a piece of clothing—a cocktail party in a dim club, for example, or a suit to wear to the office.


    Digitization is dramatically transforming how we shop. Now we can use it to change, and improve, how we light customer shopping experiences as well.



    1. Hyunjoo Oh, How does lighting of stores interact with global versus local processing modes of shoppers in retail environment? ProQuest, 2016