How Daylighting can Increase Retail Sales

By Del Williams

Good lighting has always been the retailer’s ally. Now, scientific research shows natural light — sunlight — may be their best friend. A seminal study by environmental consulting firm Heschong Mahone Group found retail spaces lit with daylight had increased sales by more than 40 per cent over similar spaces selling comparable products.

Walmart confirmed this trend three decades ago when the retail giant built its first energy-efficient model store in 1993, in Kansas. The roof was constructed with skylights on one-half of the store. Tom Scay, the company’s then-vice-president for real estate, told the Wall Street Journal in 1995 that the products illuminated by the skylights sold much better than those under fluorescent lights. To rule out other factors that might explain the higher sales volume, Walmart swapped the products. When lit by the skylights, sales went up significantly and the previously well-selling products’ numbers dropped.

Natural lighting or daylighting with skylights is also a win-win generationally. Retailers can stand out in a crowd targeting millennial shoppers sensitive to energy usage and climate change. Older customers are accommodated, too. Studies by the Illuminating Engineering Society show that after age 55, people need 2.3 times more light and higher quality light than 25-year-olds. The high cost of artificially providing the full spectrum light needed by older adults is eliminated by intelligently placed skylights.

Best of all, using daylighting increases retail foot traffic, as confirmed by the Eneref Institute. Customers interviewed for a study said naturally illuminated stores were more inviting. And having checkout counters lit with daylight made them feel at greater ease. Overall, the shopping experience was more pleasant for customers who said they were likely to spend more time in sunlit retail spaces.

Even showroom staff said they were happier under skylights, more productive, felt more approachable and were absent less often than those working long hours under artificial lights.

Artificial light is also a problem for perceiving colour accurately — something that is crucial for selling furniture. Furniture is more attractive under warm natural lighting that enables the fabric’s true colours to shine through. Products look better, resulting in higher sales.

To aid colour perception, sales, productivity and even energy use, retailers are looking to skylights like those from DayStar Systems for showrooms and fabrication production roofs.

High-performance skylight systems such as these capture the sun’s natural light and collect, amplify and diffuse a broad, even pattern of indoor illumination. This is accomplished using a four-part system. Sunlight is gathered and diffused through an ultra-clear outer dome and inner collimation lens. The dome is supported by insulated roof curbs of galvalume steel or aluminum continuously welded for watertight seams. A light shaft made of insulated panels with highly reflective interior surfaces amplifies light as it is captured. An attractive ceiling lens, engineered to diffuse highly concentrated light into a broad lighting pattern, is installed on the interior ceiling.

Harnessing renewable and free natural light not only cuts the cost of generating artificial lighting but reduces collateral expenses, too. Some artificial light creates greater heat loads, which must be offset by a building’s cooling system.

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, Calif. He has a master of arts degree in English from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

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