In pursuit of optimum product presentation, retailers are experimenting with various lighting strategies to enhance color "pop" while creating a more subdued store atmosphere.
"The way the lighting accents product certainly can help enhance sales," said Nick Hutson, director of facility management and mechanical design at Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis.
To drive sales, retailers such as Marsh, Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif., and Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C., are seeking to create a kinder, gentler store environment by using lamps that deliver "warm" color temperature.
"We're using 3,500 Kelvin bulbs throughout the sales area. It gives a warm feeling, rather than the stark white of the cool white fluorescents," said Edward Estberg, director of facilities at Raley's. Similarly, Harris Teeter is using combinations of bulbs whose color temperature ranges from 3,000 to 3,800 degrees Kelvin.
Gelson's Markets, an upscale chain based in Encino, Calif., is softening the store atmosphere with special lighting treatments.
"As we are remodeling, we're switching to more subdued lighting and more lighting directly on the product and not so much on the perimeter and the ceiling," said a Gelson's executive who requested anonymity. "Rather than coming in and seeing a very bright store, you're going to see something a little more quiet, a little more subdued and, hopefully, a little more inviting."
Bob Francis, director of store engineering at Dierbergs Markets, Chesterfield, Mo., said he'd like to incorporate some of the newer lamps that deliver good color representation, but he's waiting for technology to improve. The available options still experience a troubling color shift over time, he said.
One recent lighting innovation Francis said is working well is the move to fit cool white fluorescent lighting with plastic sleeves in the meat department.
"We take a 63-cent bulb, slip this tube over it and we get performance of some of the bulbs that cost $12 and $15," he said. Indeed, a creative approach is right at home in supermarket lighting programs. Following is a closer look at lighting strategies under way at three chains. While John C. Groub Co., Seymour, Ind., established a "nostalgic" theme in its Jay C. Foods store, Harris Teeter developed a lighting program that delivers a consistent look to all products throughout the store. Meanwhile, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, is going after an open, airy atmosphere with exposed roof structures accented with special lighting.
At Harris Teeter, Consistency Counts
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A new store lighting prototype at Harris Teeter here ensures that packaged meat looks as good in the shopper's cart moving through the health and beauty care aisle as it did on display in the meat case.
Many retailers take great pains to enhance the appearance of packaged meat and produce with special lighting in the particular departments. However, when the shopper carries the product into other areas of the store, where lighting is different, the effect is lost. The result can be lost sales and higher shrink.
Recognizing the importance of a consistent look for products throughout the store, Harris Teeter developed a lighting program using various sources of illumination that share two key characteristics: color rendering index, or CRI, and color temperature.
High-intensity-discharge metal halide lamps -- whether used for ambient or accent lighting -- and fluorescent lamps used in gondola canopies have a CRI ranging from 70 to 73 and deliver similar "color pop" for all products throughout the store. The relatively high CRI also allows lighting levels to be reduced somewhat while still delivering visual clarity, color and contrast.
Harris Teeter also uses lamps with similar color temperature, a characteristic that determines how "warm" or "cool" colors appear. Metal halide lamps mounted from the roof deck feature color temperature of 3,800 degrees Kelvin, while fluorescent lamps in gondola canopies are 3,500 degrees Kelvin. Even accent lighting for produce displays or endcaps fall within the same color temperature range at 3,000 Kelvin.
The lighting program is designed to accentuate the design of new stores, which favor exposed roof decks instead of lay-in ceilings for a more open, warehouse feel.
"Both customers and employees like the freer, more open feeling," said Mark Fenton, staff architect, who noted the new lighting configuration should reduce electricity costs.
"While energy savings was not a primary focus, we hope to incur savings, since there are fewer fixtures with the [high-intensity-discharge] system than with the previous fluorescent system. We also expect maintenance to decrease due to the longer life of the metal halide lamps."
John C. Groub Brings The Past to Light
SEYMOUR, Ind. -- When John C. Groub Co. opened its Jay C. Foods store here, lighting designers developed a nostalgic look that paid homage to the company's 130-year history.
Column posts that support the roof, for example, were painted black and mounted with globe-type light fixtures to resemble old-fashioned lampposts on street corners of days gone by.
"It's a showcase store for us," said Jerry Tirey, property manager at John C. Groub. "We were trying to go back in time and we built a store with old-time brick and false windows like you might see around town. We wanted to get lighting that would go with that decor."
For its main source of illumination, the 30,000-square-foot store uses prismatic glass lighting suspended 2 feet from a 16-foot ceiling. In certain areas such as the entranceway or the produce section, where the lay-in ceiling is 10 or 12 feet from the floor, 250-watt metal halide lamps are used for recessed lighting.
"We were trying to get it even all the way through at a 100-footcandle level," Tirey noted. "Basically we try to get a soft feel for the store, not anything harsh or bright."
While the old-fashioned decor plays an important role in the store's overall design, Tirey stressed the importance of proper lighting for the product.
"You've got to try and keep the lights, or even the decor, from standing out because your objective is to get shoppers to look at the product on the shelf or in the case."
John C. Groub, which operates 30 stores, was founded in 1863 as a wholesale company and moved into retailing in 1930.
H-E-B's Exposure Is on the Beam
SAN ANTONIO -- H.E. Butt Grocery Co. here is embarking on a lighting program that accentuates the exposed structure of roof decks for a more open, airy atmosphere.
The 220-store chain here has introduced a lighting design that highlights support beams and joists of the roof structure in its newer stores measuring 60,000 square feet and larger.
"This gives us a clean, bright look that enhances the structure of the roof," said Ralph Mehringer, vice president of facilities design and construction. "We're tending to get away from ceilings now and going more with the exposed structure."
At H-E-B's new stores, metal roof decks, exposed bar joists and beam supports are painted a light color and lamps are suspended about 16 feet above the floor, he said.
Clear acrylic lenses are installed on the 400-watt, high-intensity-discharge lights in the sales area. "This lens distributes the light in virtually a 360-degree globe pattern. We like that bright, no-shadow look," he added.
With light reflected off the roof structure above as well as off the light-colored floor tile below, the stores are able to achieve the objective of 90-foot-candle illumination in the store.
"Overall we are looking for a clean, bright, crisp look and 90 foot-candles maintained with different light sources," Mehringer said. "It creates an ambience that is conducive to selling.
"I think people like a clean, crisp look. They have confidence when the cleanliness aspect is enhanced and when they are able to clearly see color definition and labeling," he added.
Mehringer added that in specialty areas of the store, such as ethnic food sections or in restaurant seating areas, H-E-B goes for a more subdued atmosphere.