High-end store lighting is extremely demanding, and designing luminaires for it is even more uphill. There are so many parameters to consider, and customers have different styles or needs. We have compiled a list of the most important aspects of good store lighting and how to design for it, and what the years ahead will demand.
Customers need to feel well in the store. This should come as no surprise: people who are comfortable tend to stay in the shop for a longer time, and that directly translates to improved sales. And here, lighting plays a phenomenally big part, with flicker being one of the most important (but often overlooked) elements. We humans might not notice light flicker, but it affects our well-being to the point that it can make us physically ill. In fact, research has shown it causes a measurable negative impact on employee health and sick leave.
IEEE 1789 describes the health risks of flicker and sets boundaries for acceptable and observable limits. The health and well-being related area concentrates on the lower flicker frequencies between 3 to 100 Hz (for some individuals up to 200), where the human Retina is the most susceptible and flicker can induce everything from seizures at the lower frequencies to migraines at the higher end. Worth mentioning is that across the entire spectrum the limits also address work hazards where rotating machinery can appear stationary, but that is of course not an issue in most shop designs. Short-term exposure to flicker – i.e. what shop customers get – mostly ‘just’ cause unrest and maybe a bit of a headache, but really not what your customers want their shop associated with – or your luminaires, for that matter. All in all, flicker simply needs to go. Fortunately, electronics have improved a lot within the last year, and most luminaires can be rid of flicker with a simple change to one of the new generations of LED drivers.
Another big factor is dimming. If a shop needs to highlight a certain area, it’s very beneficial to be able to turn down the intensity of the light in surrounding places. Here, it’s good to use a driver with good flicker characteristics also at dimmed values. That way you keep the atmosphere good in the places that are supposed to be a refuge from the spotlight.
It costs a lot of money to open up a shop, and lighting makes up a quite large chunk of that budget. Of course, the luminaires themselves have a price, but lurking behind is the added cost of installation: How many circuit breakers and sets of wiring need to be installed? This depends not so much on the wattage of the luminaires as on the power-on current inrush. When most electronics are powered on, they draw a lot of power in the first few milliseconds, much, much more than the operating power. This is called Inrush, and you need to dimension your electrics for that – not the normal power drain. Needless to say, the lower you can get your inrush on your LED drivers, the more money you save your customers.
Another way to save expenses for your customers is to accommodate for more than one track type. The customer might have existing tracks in their ceiling, which can be re-used, saving both materials, time, and budget. Supporting more than one track manufacturer is also a selling point that opens doors since some customers might have design preferences towards different track designs. You can even take this one step further and choose track drivers that fit multiple manufacturers’ tracks in the same model, eliminating one extra stumbling block.
The trend is clear: these past years, as LEDs has gotten better and electronics has gotten smaller, we have seen contemporary aesthetics move in two opposite directions. Either you see the luminaire as a sculptural design element of the room and the decor, or you want to see it as little as possible. The good news is that there are now drivers that you can completely hide in the design without affecting it, or in the case of track lights hide completely in the track. Additionally, some of these new drivers have significantly improved specs all around.
One of the most important aspects of shop design is to not get in the way of shopping: the lights should simply just work. If a luminaire fails, the shop will have a visible fault in their lighting, which might work for a budget retail chain, but it’s unacceptable for high-end shops. But both shops will have to get an electrician with a ladder (or perhaps a costly lift) and disrupt business for the change. Whether this happens out of your pocket as an after-sales service or on the shop’s own budget, this is what will be remembered by the customer, and what will be shared with their network. Reliability is not exciting, but it’s vital.
One might object that all this is fine and well, but classics tend to sell – well. Why rock the boat? Well, the LED market moves very, very fast, and everyone has to move with it. What was regarded as stellar performance five years ago is no longer cutting edge, and customer awareness will start in the top chain segments and seep down through the layers. But technology is working in our favor as never before and turns this into an opportunity to distinguish yourself: compatible LEDs with superior performance are coming out from every manufacturer, and minimized drivers with previously unobtainable specs are now available. Classics that sell well can remain classics that sell well, but with updated versions selling to the more demanding audience along the side of it.
The change in Retail lighting has already arrived and thanks to Nordic Power Converters it is now possible to be part of it.