The retail sector is taking control of its energy consumption for lighting, but without losing sight of the importance of the customer experience, writes Pennie Varvarides

UK retail sales in 2011 exceeded £303 billion. And while the nation is in the depths of recession, the retail sector has grown by 4.4 per cent compared with last year. But there is stiff competition from online retailers, which are growing nearly four times as fast. It’s becoming a battle to keep customers coming through the doors, and lighting can be a powerful weapon.

Lighting plays a huge part in the world of retail. It may cost a lot to install and run, but it’s worth the investment. First, stores want you to see the products available. Lighting can draw customers into the aisles, guide them round and pull them in. Done badly, it can have the opposite effect.

Making the change

With energy bills burning a hole in everyone’s pockets and green issues high on the agenda, big names like Tesco, Morrisons, Boots, Co-op, John Lewis, WHSmith, DFS and many more are reassessing their lighting, and in many cases choosing to go LED. By replacing old inefficient sources and schemes with modern alternatives, retailers can slash their energy bills and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

In the pages that follow, Lux highlights retailers from supermarkets to high street fashion outlets that are giving their all to slash energy use and CO2 emissions without compromising the customer experience. We see light being used only where it’s needed, low-energy sources, daylight harvesting and more. We see an industry that is experimenting with different systems, trialling new products, and introducing brand new technologies – such as dynamic room lighting that mimics the changing character of light during the day, and sun pipes that bring daylight indoors.

One of the retailers investing millions in LED lighting is Next. And when it comes to making sure you get the right kit, Peter Bowman, Next’s national shopfitting manager, says it’s crucial that the products will stand the test of time. ‘You’re looking to make sure that the colour rendering is good,’ he says, ‘that the colour temperature is maintained within acceptable tolerances – and our tolerances are very tight.’

So they should be. Rendering colours properly in a fashion store can make the difference between success and failure. Luminaires with a good colour rendering index (CRI) can make products pop, but a low CRI can make things look dull – or just not how the designer intended. If clothes or food looks different when taken home, the customer is rarely impressed. Good colour rendering indexes of over 85 or 90 are perfectly achievable with the latest LED products. Think twice about anything less.

Fancy facelifts

It isn’t just shopfloors that are getting fancy facelifts. Warehouses, changing rooms and back-of-house areas are being fitted with LEDs, sensors and last-man-out switches – even walk-in freezers are getting a piece of the action.

There’s a revolution in the retail sector. After initial uncertainty, these companies now know what they want and they are working closely with the lighting industry to make sure they get it. Some of the biggest names in UK retail are leading the way in low-energy lighting. Viva la revolución!

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Philips is asking lighting companies to sign licensing agreements so they can continue using technology to which the firm says its patents apply. Jill Entwistle investigates

Here be dragons

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