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Lighting ... Naturally

November 8, 2017

The panel consisted of Professor Paolo Di Trapani from Coelux, Ian Hobbs from Bruceshaw, Ellie Coombs from lighting designer Nulty, Rebecca Walton from Dalziel + Pow and Caroline Philipson from Ann Summers and it was chaired by Mark Faithfull editor of Retail Property Analyst, MAPIC and World Retail Congress. 

The Ideaworks Experience Centre allowed for attendees to not only listen to the panel discussion but also experience the stunning CoeLux product that is showcased in the basement of the showroom.

CoeLux® is the ground breaking optical system based on nano technology which artificially reproduces natural light and the visual appearance of the sun and sky in spaces that are deprived of natural light, creating the sensation of infinite space.

The panel were unanimous on the importance of customer experience and how lighting vastly impacts on this, in a number of key areas:

  • Navigating customers around the space

  • Highlighting key points of sale

  • The crucial changing room experience

  • Communicating the brand

Recent innovations in lighting and its potential to integrate technology – from control to applications – has meant there are a plethora of lighting solutions are available that can be used to make statements about brands, and the products they sell.

Coelux’s Professor Paolo Di Trapani used the analogy of the theatre for the modern retail environment where, if a design is successful, the customer switches from “spectator to an actor”, becoming part of the “performance”. For interior designers, light is a key element of creating mood and ambience, it therefore makes sense to have a lighting consultant on board as early as possible to create a holistic and seamless design.

Once a customer has made their way through a store, we then come to the ‘moment of truth’ the changing room experience and the question of why they are often so dreadful. However, Nulty’s Ellie Coombs said that although effective lighting techniques for changing rooms had been developed, it remained an area of under-investment and that poor consideration of the space and the lack of square feet devoted to changing areas continued to impact illumination of these areas.

Caroline Philipson of Ann Summers conceded that even though retailers know they will convert more sales if the changing rooms are good, they are under such enormous pressure to maximise the selling space that far too frequently fitting rooms are located at the back of a space, in condensed small areas, frequently hosted by only one downward light in each section, which is not a comfortable environment.

So when it comes to flattering but realistic lighting in changing rooms to increase customer confidence, what is the answer?  Ideally natural sunlight is the ultimate solution as Coombs, from Nulty, highlighted that “the sun provides non-directed light due to distance”. She said that opening up retail space to natural light was a perceptible current trend.

However, daylight is not always accessible, so finding ways to simulate not only the tone, light quality and also the uplifting sense of wellbeing achieved through the sunlight and Rebecca Walton from Dalziel & Pow stressed that lighting remained a crucial factor in reinforcing the brand and design narrative. Walton said that lighting of key areas including the windows, core product areas and back walls or awkward spaces was a core component of the international design agency’s approach.

This was a point taken up by Caroline Philipson of Ann Summers, who said that differentiation is critical to retail design, in particular with a brand like Ann Summers that works hard to create a brand ethos, including in-house tattoo parlours in some of its flagships. She said that a flexible lighting solution is always important, as the company likes to change its visual merchandising within its stores and, for example, is considering a showcased motorbike as a feature point in some of its stores, which will need to be effectively lit.

Finally, Ian Hobbs of Bruceshaw stressed that budget remained a key consideration, especially for roll-outs beyond the showcase flagships. However, he said that lighting had become a priority and foresaw the use of natural, or simulated natural, light as a growing trend.

Concluding, Professor Paolo Di Trapani, spoke about the “primal requirement” for natural light and how human instinctively react to it presence. For example, light doesn’t always broaden a space, because a lamp can create a “closed and insular” ambience which actually disconnects us from the outside space, he warned. This can lead to the lamp generating “fear from the user”.

Using a sunlight replicator such as Coelux means that a lighting solution can diminish this fear by reconnecting users with the positive experience of light, increasing their desire to dwell and their sense of well-being.