July / August 2002

Eye-Candy: Lighting Can Even Help Stores Sell Candy
Kilojolts Consulting Group aims to reduce watts/sq. ft. while increasing product appeal

By Vilma Barr

Gary Markowitz wants lighting to create eye-candy for retail store customers-but at a fair energy-consumption-to-price balance. "Lighting is for people," says Markowitz of Kilojolts Consulting Group, an energy management and lighting design consulting firm in Lexington, MA. "Lighting also drives sales. People shop and buy with their eyes. In a supermarket, they typically decide if they'll make a purchase in the produce or meat departments within the first 15 seconds or less," he explains. "It's the job of the lighting package to grab the shopper's attention and let them see the product in the best possible light. It's unnecessary to wash the entire store with a high quantity of light," he advises. "Rather, it's the quality of the light on the product that is important, not the light on the ceiling and the floors."

Markowitz offers these tenets of effective, cost-efficient retail lighting:

  • Enhance the store décor, conserve energy, and make it easy for the owner to maintain the installed lighting system. Determine how applicable energy codes will affect the lighting design, and then how to achieve a proper balance of appeal and value for each lighting dollar spent.
  • A flexible lighting system will adapts to seasonal changes, special promotions, or shifts in merchandising strategy.
  • Create contrast on the product versus the background. The minimum recommended contrast is 3-to-1. If above 5-to-1, the illumination on the product becomes overly bright and is counterproductive.
  • Maximize the fixture's light output. Look beyond the obvious. Ask the manufacturer, "Can you do this for me?" if the request is reasonable, they will probably make the change.

For a supermarket in Cambridge, MA, located near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, Markowitz applied his basic theories to achieve the client's requirements for visual appeal and expense-cutting energy efficiency. "Mot supermarkets over-light the store's interior," he observes. "In Massachusetts, there is a prescriptive code for lighting levels in different areas," he points out. "In retail, it ranges from .5 watts/sq. ft. up to 2 watts/sq. ft., with an allowance for display lighting."

Markowitz and the client agreed that they would bring the project in under the 1.5 watts/sq. ft. energy-use code level. The lighting program was a trade-off between a lower overall connective load pattern that balanced the higher energy use of feature lighting to dramatize product displays around the store. "The installed reading was at 1.19 watts/sq. ft.," he reports.

Key to the design was the modification of ceiling fixtures made by Amerlux that are hung by aircraft cable to give them an industrial look and create a structural lattice. "Amerlux customized the fixture so we could use GE's T8 32-watt fluorescent lamp that has a SP 35 color factor," Markowitz relates. The fixture's ballast supplied by MagneTek (now called Universal Lighting Technologies) was adjusted to accept the specified lamp. Amerlux now offers the fixture, called the "Producer," as part of its line.

For accent lighting, he uses PAR30 or PAR38 HIR narrow flood medium spot lamps, and 130V 100W PAR38 lamps that connect at 88 watts and are rated at 6,000 hours.

Markowitz also demonstrated that the market's lighting system was effective in increasing sales of products placed on lower shelves. His test area was the pet food section. "If the client is going to pay for a higher-cost product that promises a significant payback, they need to know that the investment in better-quality illumination has a realistic payback," he stresses. His retrofit evaluation in the pet food aisles was based on hanging the fixtures in 16-foot parallel lengths mounted 10 feet apart. A measurement of the light level proved that it had increased 50 percent on the lower shelf. "The vertical footcandle reading on the second lowest shelf went from 18 to nearly 40 vertical footcandles," Markowitz reports.

"It's not unusual for management to have a hard time, at first, in believing the scope of energy-efficient lighting's financial benefits and-in retail stores, banks, and restaurants-how it can stimulate activity when combined with feature lighting. The lighting designer has to be prepared with the kind of projected results that can convince clients of the positive ripple effect on all users," he says.

Markowitz is a member of the International Association of Lighting Designers and has been an instructor in energy-efficient systems for the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense, and the Raytheon Corp. His company has produced several versions of the Store Manager's Energy Handbook that emphasize sustainable energy awareness and policies.

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