Conventional, not solid state, light sources dominate the lighting toolkit for future Pret A Manger stores. But that doesn’t mean it is inefficient, as Mark Burgess discovers

Light Bureau has worked with interior designers to help sandwich chain Pret A Manger develop a new lighting toolkit for its shops. The test bed for the ideas is the latest Pret store on New Oxford Street in the Bloomsbury district of London.

The lighting design was only part of a wider brief to update the company’s interior design that was spearheaded by restaurant and retail specialist David Collins Studio. Light Bureau found itself working with a new palette of colours and finishes chosen by the interior designer.

Pret is conscious of the impact of its energy use on the environment, and as Light Bureau started developing the toolkit for future stores, it considered the best current lighting technology, including the latest lamps.

For the most part, established sources such as compact metal halide and concealed fluorescent are used at the New Oxford Street store, but some LEDs are installed in point-of-sale and amenity areas.

It’s about the quality

Although solid state lighting was considered for broader application, the designers believed that discharge light sources supplied a better quality of light and more impact. They also created comfort, visual impact and met Pret’s energy objectives at a sustainable price.

Light Bureau has not closed the door to solid state sources, however. As technology improves, it will replace established light sources with more sustainable types.

Light Bureau also had to tackle some other common problems in retail lighting. One is the tendency of large shopfront windows to act as giant mirrors, preventing potential customers from seeing inside. The designers realised that illumination of the vertical surfaces inside was the key to improving visibility.

Washing the walls

Most of the vertical surfaces in the store have a brick finish, specified by David Collins Studio to create a feeling of comfort. Light Bureau realised the bricks were a perfect medium for wall washing to emphasise the texture. A perimeter cove with concealed warm white fluorescent batten sources achieved the effect.

The New Oxford Street store has lounge seating at the front to encourage customers to dwell and relax, and the new lighting has an important role in drawing them in. The central dining area and take- away are at the rear.

Most of the ambient and accent lighting equipment specified was from iGuzzini, and the supplier and the designers had to be mindful of the deadlines not only for this project – about seven weeks from taking ownership including the design phase – but for rollouts at future stores.

Comfort and conviviality

The completed store is a comfortable and convivial environment. Customers polled have been positive about the New Oxford Street store and local regular customers have indicated that this is their favourite store. The restaurant manager says the store is so popular that meeting lunchtime demand is a real challenge.

The client is now preparing to develop the ideas proved at New Oxford Street. Pret A Manger’s head of international design, Matthew Wilson, says: ‘New ideas that could have taken six stores to develop successfully have worked well on this project because of everyone working hard together. We are really happy with the finished result.’

CLIENT Pret A Manger
INTERIOR DESIGN David Collins Studio
LIGHTING DESIGN Duncan Hamilton, Paul Traynor; Light Bureau
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