An increasing number of retailers are favouring LED lighting to increase their sales performance. Besides being energy efficient, LEDs add aesthetic and visual appeal to the spaces they illuminate.
By Potshangbam July
The retail industry is in a constant state of flux. Retailers should not only be quick to adapt to the shopping habits of customers but also to the changing lighting trends. The right type of lighting is crucial to create an appealing environment at a store, one that can stir the interest of prospective buyers. The main goal of a retailer is to make a sale. Smart lighting in a store can highlight the products or brands on sale, so that they draw the attention of the customers. Lighting is much more than an aesthetic element and when deployed strategically, can work wonders for the sales made by a store.
Compared to options like incandescent and fluorescent lighting, LEDs are increasingly becoming the preferred option when it comes to retail lighting. According to experts, the retail industry can benefit a lot from the use of LED lighting solutions. LEDs enhance the look and feel of the products and improve the store’s brand image. Besides these positive aspects, LEDs are energy-efficient and have a lifetime of up to 100,000 hours, which saves retailers a lot of money.
Why LEDs are the best choice
Visibility of the merchandise is important in retail businesses. One significant feature that differentiates LED lights from other lighting solutions is their capability as a directional light source. LEDs are capable of releasing the light in a designated, focused direction. This makes it possible to focus on either the newest releases or the best-selling products, encouraging customers to make a purchase.
The colour rendering index (CRI) of LED lights is relatively high, which has a profound effect on the appearance of products, displaying them without distorting the colours. The colour tone of a product viewed under the sun is benchmarked as the ideal standard for any product, and LEDs exhibit a CRI that is closer to sunlight than most other light sources. It should be noted that the closer the CRI of the light is to 100, the better it renders the colours of the product.
New LED luminaires that are designed for retail applications come with the dimming feature. This allows LED lights to dim down to 1 per cent. LEDs that come with the warm dimming feature can change colour from cool to warm as the intensity is reduced. When paired with the proper dimming systems, the dimming level of newer LED lamps can go up 10 per cent as a standard feature. Dimming saves a considerable amount of power, and also saves users the chore of switching the lights on or off based on high or low traffic hours.
In most commercial areas, lighting alone accounts for 40 to 50 per cent of the total energy consumed. LED lighting offers financial advantages, as it consumes 80 per cent less energy. In addition, LEDs considerably lower the maintenance costs since they do not require to be changed frequently. LED bulbs can potentially last for more than 14 years.
LEDs offer a range of correlated colour temperatures (CCTs) which are best suited for the retail space. This gives users the option to select the colour that will display the product best, and create the ambience that matches the brand’s image. LEDs are also preferred for their versatility. They are available in a variety of colours, sizes, wattages and designs. And they release less heat, which reduces air conditioning costs.
Technological developments in LED retail lighting
This industry has entered a growth phase because of the technological advances that have made LEDs a viable option for many commercial applications that were not feasible technically or financially just a few years back. More retail stores are now investing in upgrading legacy lighting fixtures to commercial LEDs. Business owners are now integrating intelligent lighting systems and controls that save energy and result in workspace efficiency. Also, LED lights are inherently friendly to digital controls. These intelligent controls make it possible to divide the store into zones, and lights get automatically turned off or dimmed whenever they are not needed. With the integration of occupancy sensors, the lights can be turned off automatically when no movement is sensed. Photo sensors automatically reduce the use of lights if there is enough daylight in the store.
LEDs enable effective scene control, which is important for retail stores. When LEDs and dimmers are paired, store owners have various lighting output options. Retailers can have complete control over the look and feel of the interior of the store. Besides substantially reducing energy costs, LEDs can enhance the design and aesthetic effects of the retail space.
Another major advantage with intelligent controls is the possibility of time-based scheduling of lighting. The timing can be programmed as per the specific needs of the owner. Automatic time clocks help to turn off the lights when the store is vacant or at its usual closing time. Besides, the life span of LEDs is not affected when cycled off and on, unlike in the case of traditional lights like fluorescent lamps.
All these advances in LED digital systems effectively highlight key products, encourage exploration inside the store, guide customers, etc. These new lighting technologies are helping retailers to drive up revenues.
Consider the basics before purchasing LED retail lighting
There’s more to effective LED retail lighting than just being appealing to the eye. There are certain factors to be considered before making a purchase.
- Colour temperature is vital when creating the desired look and feel of a store. A cool colour temperature, which is in the range of 5000k to 6000k, is recommended if the retailer wants a spacious, clean and crisp look and feel. Warm colour temperature in the range of 3000k to 4000k can create a sense of coziness and familiarity. LEDs are available in a wide range of colour temperatures, such as warm white: 2700K-3500K (dusk time yellow light), neutral white: 4000K-4500K (bright sunlight that is a little yellow), and cool white: 5000K-6500K (pure white, cool daylight).
- The CRI determines the accuracy of the colour portrayed by the light. A high CRI rating is generally considered the best lighting. It is ideal to use a CRI that is closer to 100, as it portrays products in a store in the most authentic light possible.
- The lumens of the bulbs must be checked to understand their brightness. When the number of lumens is higher, the light appears brighter. One should note that the brightness of the light is no more measured by wattage. In the past, the strength or brightness of lights like incandescent, halogen and fluorescent bulbs was checked by their wattage rating. The unit of measurement of brightness for LED light bulbs is lumens.
- One should pay attention to the bulbs’ efficacy too. Efficacy is the amount of visible light that is produced with a certain amount of power (watts). The efficacy of the product can be gauged by dividing its lumens by the watts it consumes.
- Compared to other legacy lights, LEDs release less heat. However, it is necessary to eliminate the excessive heat produced from the LED devices because the semiconductors in them can handle only a certain amount of heat. A heat-sink is required for this purpose, ensuring an optimum operating temperature. This increases the life span of LED products.
Sumit Padmakar Joshi, vice chairman and managing director, Signify Innovations India Limited (formerly known as Philips Lighting India), shares his insights on the changing trends in retail lighting and LEDs, which have made the latter a favourable lighting solution for the retail sector.
Why are LEDs considered to be the pragmatic choice for lighting in retail stores?
LEDs are considered one of the best lighting solutions for retail as they offer many benefits. In a digital world, people still crave physical experiences – even the millennials, who have lived most of their lives online. LED lighting offers modularity in luminaire construction as well as ease of control over colour and intensity of lighting—which means that retailers have the highest degree of flexibility in designing a unique look for their stores. Adaptable LED lighting also creates a personal and intimate environment for an authentic shopping experience.
Many retailers are working hard to become part of the ‘Green Movement’ and are trying to involve all their stakeholders in this environment-friendly agenda as well. A new trend seems to have emerged, whereby there is a recognition of the fact that value can be created out of waste and this is known as the ‘circular economy’. While governments and regulators are imposing ever-more stringent regulations, consumers are also demanding transparency and making conscious decisions to help the environment. With intelligent LED lighting systems and controls, it is possible to divide a store into zones and only use the lights that are needed in any particular area at a specific time. If no people are in the vicinity, the environment can be dimmed. These systems also allow retailers to track energy usage across a store and adjust brightness depending on the amount of daylight available.
What are the latest and emerging trends in LED retail lighting?
In less than a decade, we have witnessed a huge revolution in LED retail lighting. The structures that existed initially have disappeared, innovative platforms have been developed, and new players have emerged. Today, any time, any place, always online and 24/7 are essential concepts in understanding consumer behaviour.
Many factors have influenced the rise of popular ‘hyper local’ stores. Environmental awareness has increased and shoppers want access to truly seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as specialties from their local region. When you add into the mix the strong desire for the neighbourhood spirit and the preservation of traditional craft skills, you have a recipe for a whole new trend, which is giving power to small and independent retailers, as well as pop-up and event-based traders. Through lighting, retailers are able to produce an authentic and culturally relevant ambience. They also use light and colour to create different scenes and environments, integrating with natural light to add a real sense of comfort and familiarity. In addition, light also plays an important role in enhancing the appearance and freshness of produce such as seasonal vegetables.
With the huge growth in online shopping, real-world retail outlets need to offer something different and special if they want to stay in the market. Visiting a store needs to be more of an experience. And if there’s an opportunity to share that experience with other like-minded people, so much the better. ‘Convergence or omni-channel retail’ is about bringing together a range of related activities and representations of the brand, so that a trip to a shop is more than just a transaction.
Responsive and flexible lighting plays a major part in creating different atmospheres in stores and producing spaces that become multi-functional. By playing around with colours and light effects, retailers can attract customers into the shopping environment and encourage them to linger while they browse the shelves. It’s all part of the creation of the brand theatre.
Constant real-time data is now part of our everyday lives and the retail environment is no exception. Intelligent tracking systems allow us to understand consumers better and predict their shopping behaviour. And when you combine this with tools that provide information on staff productivity, you have a great opportunity to increase sales. The Internet of Things connects mobile devices with passive beacons in the shop, allowing owners and managers to guide consumers and send targeted messages and promotions. Individualised prices have also become a possibility through the analysis of shoppers’ previous purchases and the gaining of insights on what they may choose to buy in the future.
Data is now intrinsically bound up with lighting. Real-time information can be sent directly to the customer via indoor positioning systems and the LED light network. Useful for communicating product details, discounts and maps, this data is also helpful for retail staff when managing stock and tracking the impact of the changes made across the store.
What should buyers keep in mind before making a big investment in LED retail lighting?
To begin with, retailers need to educate themselves or consult reliable resources to correctly understand some of the basic lighting properties like efficacy, colour rendering index (CRI), correlated colour temperature (CCT), useful life and glare ratings. These parameters help to correctly identify the kind of light fixtures ideal for the desired lighting effect and application the retailer has planned.
While LED lighting empowers retailers to optimise the store layout as per the needs of their customers and also to create theatrical scenes to attract potential buyers to the store, it also encumbers them with the responsibility to do proper due diligence when selecting the right LED lighting solution from a whole gamut of offerings in the market.
The LED lighting market is today full of vendors who are simply assembling the components of an LED luminaire, without doing any research or validation about the compatibility of these components. LED lighting is designed to offer high quality, consistent and easily controllable lighting effects at a low operating cost due to its low energy consumption. But this desired output can only be achieved if the LED product has been designed with proper thermal and optical engineering.
Thermal engineering ensures proper heat dissipation from the source LEDs, and thus gives the product a longer useful life. Optical engineering, on the other hand, ensures the correct selection and application of the LEDs for a particular luminaire. It also ensures that these LEDs are used with the correct reflectors, lenses or dedicated optics to deliver the desired lighting effect. The other most critical aspect of an LED product is selecting the best quality driver to control the operations of the LED fixture, and keep it immune from the vagaries of the input supply power. Therefore, it is always advisable to select an LED lighting vendor that manufactures all these critical components of a fixture, like the heat-sink (and housing), lenses, optics and the drivers, in-house. It is preferable that the vendor has the research and testing capabilities to validate compliance of these LED fixtures to the most stringent local and global standards.