In Light of… Profitability

On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I was immediately impressed with a City Target — the familiar big box store’s smaller, urban alternative. What stood out was the abundance of natural light coming into the store from all sides. I found myself wishing more mega and department stores would take a cue from Target.

Further research explains this not so novel idea is only slowly percolating throughout the industry.

Natural light increases mood and productivity in the workplace, and evidence from retailers suggests that light has the same effect on customers. During the 1990s, Wal-Mart and other retailers were quick to replace artificial lights with skylights in many of their stores. Expecting a decline in energy bills, instead they found a large increase in sales of products from store departments that were more naturally lit.

And in recent years, more stores have jumped on the bandwagon. “Opening up windows,” says Steven Derwoed, vp of store design and merchandising at Macy’s, “is like adding another amenity to the store – a vista out onto the city.” Customers can see the true colors of the merchandise they’re buying, and rather than creating unnecessary signage around the store, notes Derwoed, windows simply serve as landmarks to help shoppers orient themselves on the floor.

Natural light is such a luxury in New York yet incorporating it into a store’s environment isn’t simple. To cut down on the glare and shadows created from the windows, the Bergdorf Goodman team incorporated antique bronze metal-mesh floor-to-ceiling curtains. A practical solution that is an equally strong design element.

Since products are mostly viewed in silhouette, designers strategically placed double-headed, 25-degree LED PAR lamps around merchandise to overcome bright daylight. Spaces can be as much as three times brighter than the ambient light coming in through the windows and lights can automatically dim or brighten for consistency despite the time of day or weather.

Now doesn’t this look like a Target store you can spend some time in? Let’s leave the caves to bats.



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