Lighting the boutique retail experience: setting the mood for success

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November 28, 2021 – Shoppers are drawn to boutiques with great lighting. From stunning product presentations to inviting ambient lighting, here’s how to implement lighting design for retail success.

According to a Vogue business analysis, lighting for a catwalk show costs between $ 10,000 and $ 40,000 – a significant cost category for these events. That’s because fashion designers understand the critical role lighting plays in ensuring that their products, brand, and creative vision are portrayed accurately and in an appealing way.

Lighting isn’t just practical; it’s part of history.

Likewise, boutique retail stores should consider the role lighting plays in customer experience and sales. Lighting is not just another tool, it’s an integral part of a successful merchandising strategy. There are several elements to consider and luckily as many innovative product options to help you bring up a boutique shop to illuminate. Let’s look at some of these strategies and solutions.

Outdoor lighting

Let’s start with outdoor lighting, which plays a vital role in getting customers through your doors at night. Your outdoor area should be well lit for safety and orientation, using a layered approach with different types of solutions. Here are some of the most common commercial space solutions:

Floodlights aka “safety lights” are typically bright (between 700 and 1300 lumens) and strategically placed in areas where you want additional security.

Path and step lighting Luminaires help customers at night and ensure their safety. Path lights tend to have a lower lumen output between 100 and 200. Experts recommend something at the upper end of this range if there are stumbling blocks (e.g. uneven paving stones). With step lighting, between 12 and 100 lumens are usually sufficient.

Landscape and accent lighting (i.e., atmospheric lighting) can generate visual interest and highlight certain architectural or natural features. Some designers choose to illuminate trees that require anywhere from 50 to 300 lumens. Another popular technique is wall washing, which only needs around 50 lumens to achieve the desired effect.

When choosing outdoor lighting, pay attention to the IP rating, which indicates how well a luminaire can withstand elements such as water, dirt and dust. For outdoor lights, ensure a degree of protection of IP65 and higher.

Because too much artificial lighting can be harmful to nocturnal wildlife, some places (such as coastal urban areas or Dark Sky Preserves) are subject to regulations that limit light pollution. For example, stores in coastal cities may need to select lights that are marked “full cut-off (FOC),” which means no direct uplight.

Attract buyers

First, make sure you have adequate general lighting throughout the retail boutique. The Lighting Research Center recommends 1.5 to 2.5 lumens of ambient lighting per square meter of retail space. There are tons of options for ambient lighting, from simple ceiling lights and classic recessed lights to statement pieces like chandeliers.

If the retail space has an architectural feature such as cove lighting, consider using ribbon lighting (“cove lighting”) to create ambient lighting while creating a dramatic effect.

Since lighting is an essential part of the overall merchandising strategy, consider the ones you want mood when choosing the ambient lighting. This is where the color temperature (CCT) makes the difference.

In general, light sources with a lower Kelvin (2700 K to 3000 K) are considered “warm” and evoke feelings of comfort and familiarity, while temperatures with higher Kelvin (3500 K to 5000 K) are considered “cool” and promote alertness.

Most retailers choose lighting in the 2700K to 4000K range depending on the effect you want and the size of the store; a color temperature at the higher end of this spectrum generally makes a room appear larger. Fortunately, you can find lighting products with field adjustable color temperatures that you can experiment with and find the perfect setting.

Guide customers through the experience

As with outdoor lighting, a layered approach inside works best to ensure the boutique is both functional and welcoming. Consider adding a finishing touch to your general lighting by illuminating walls and other vertical surfaces using recessed fixtures with wall wash moldings or adjustable heads.

Mounting the light closer to the wall (less than 2.5 feet) creates a more “streaked” effect, ideal for highlighting textures and adding visual interest, while spacing more than 2.5 feet away Foot is better to highlight objects along the wall (like wall hangings) rather than the wall itself.

Next, consider adding work lighting to specific areas. What tasks do employees and guests have to perform? The checkout area usually requires more focused lighting, as do the customers’ changing rooms and employee office areas. You should consider the CRI (Color Rendering Index) of the devices you have chosen. The higher the CRI, the more the lighting resembles natural sunlight – the most accurate light source. Light sources with a lower CRI can distort colors and affect sales.

Imagine a customer who tries on and buys what she thinks is a red dress, only to discover later that it is actually orange.

Highlight products

The boutique’s products are the stars of the show. Make sure that you not only stage merchandising displays and product areas with accent lighting, but also contrast the lighting concept to draw the customers’ attention where you want it.

While track lighting is still a popular accent lighting with retailers because of its adjustability, it’s not the only option in town; Under-cabinet lights and adjustable downlights are ideal for illuminating products and fit seamlessly into any design concept.

Under-cabinet lights are not only suitable for cupboards; You can line shelves with linear LED lights for even light distribution that draws attention to products. Small, low-voltage lights such as puck lights are ideal for use on shelves or displays where you want more headlights.

Do you want to hold on to ceiling lights? Many of today’s downlight solutions offer adjustable angles, which offers the visual benefits of track lighting, but with a cleaner, more uniform appearance.

Final considerations

Of course, the overall energy efficiency is an important figure for all selected devices. So do your homework and compare energy usage between devices. Maintenance intervals should also be considered, so compare the nominal lifespan between devices.

And while it may not be a consideration now, decide whether smart lighting could become a priority in the future. If there is a likelihood, consider Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) devices with embedded sensors, or at least with the option of easy retrofitting.

While there are numerous technical aspects to consider and a multitude of different lighting solutions to consider, the ultimate goal is to develop and execute a lighting design that not only illuminates dark rooms, but becomes an integral part of a successful merchandising strategy.


This feature and other great content will appear in the December 2021 issue of Electrical Business Magazine. You can find even more older issues in our digital archive.


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