We have shown examples of sustainable lighting in a retail environment. The Walmart-Office Depot model isn't exactly appropriate for furniture retail because furniture is large, requires some examination of detail but certainly not the same level of examination you give a product you can hold in your hand.
The qualitative needs of the visual environment in a furniture store are different from a mass merchant. We typically have a lower ambient light level based on the size of merchandise and price points. The rule of thumb ambient lighting is, "The higher the price the lower the ambient light level." We try to minimize the impact on the environment but lighting needs to set the stage for sales.
The image that follows is from Philips lighting and summarizes the importance lighting in the retail environment. The company's financial goals are dependent upon how sustainable business strategies including lighting influence the brand image of the store. Those strategies have measurable impact on the shopping experience and the ambiance experienced by the shopper. If these elements are out of balance then the financial goals are in jeopardy.
Figure adapted from Philips Lighting Company
Lighting quality is the primary goal of sustainable lighting design.
The qualitative reality of retail lighting is, "Good lighting can make cheap products look good. Bad lighting can make good products look cheap." Our financial goals require that we have sustainable lighting but lighting must be consistent with the brand image we are trying to project. We aren't going to be overly concerned the impact of lighting on the shopping experience if we are a running a promotional-end store. When we get to the middle range and above then we need to create an ambiance that accents product features and sets the stage for sales.
There are a number of good sources for retail lighting but a publication of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is a good baseline. ASHRAE, in collaboration with others, put together a series of advanced design guidelines. The one for retail is entitled, "Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Retail Buildings, Achieving 30% Energy Savings Toward a Net Zero Energy Building." A "net zero energy building" generates energy equal to the amount of energy it consumes. That could be solar panels powering the store and selling to the grid during the day and buying power at night. The net is zero.
The Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Retail Buildings follows the typical path for retail lighting that has been around for decades. This is the "layered approach" with ambient lighting for general or circulation lighting, perimeter lighting to define the space and accent lighting to highlight merchandise and provide visual interest.
We have compiled a list of ten actions retailers can take to move toward sustainable lighting. Most of the actions require no additional investment but update technology to lower the total cost of ownership for the lighting system. Benefits of sustainable lighting include:
Sustainable lighting helps with risk management by getting potentially hazardous lighting products out of the store. Sustainable lighting -- current technology, generally means higher productivity and sales with lower utility bills and maintenance cost. By achieving sustainable lighting you will have better lighting and the bragging rights that come with doing the right thing. Remember the sign at the entry of Office Depot. Make sure your sales associates know how to communicate your accomplishments to your customers.