As the high street fashion market continues to decline, Greenlite Group’s MD Bob Hall explains how better lighting can be used to boost stores’ sales

For many of us shopping can be an emotional experience. We hope to head home on a high, laden with bags and looking forward to showing off our purchases. But the reality can be somewhat different – all too often we slink out of the changing room, our confidence bruised after seeing previously undetectable lumps and bumps highlighted in the unforgiving light.

A quick scan of Mumsnet reveals numerous outraged posts from women, all upset by cruelly-lit cubicles. Comments such as “I’ve never felt so unattractive” and “I looked at myself in utter dismay” come thick and fast.
Is it any wonder then that fashion consumers are deserting the high street and increasingly buying online? The option to try items on in privacy at home is no doubt part of the appeal. Recent figures reveal that 187 women’s clothing stores shut last year and Mike Jarvis, retail specialist at PwC, says: “Fashion is migrating to online at a faster rate than ever.”

It’s apparent that high street retailers need to act fast. But the good news is that creating a welcoming environment with the right lighting is eminently possible. It can reap rewards too – fashion outlet Gerry Weber was said to have seen a 12% hike in sales after installing a new lighting scheme.
Buying online may be convenient, but it’s a sensory dead zone. You don’t get to feel the fabrics, inhale their smell and experience that bubble of excitement when you spot just what you’ve been looking for. In short, it’s not much of a thrill.

Lighting for a sensory experience

Retailers need to capitalise on this sensory experience, starting with the right dressing room lighting. Creating the optimum shopping environment will foster self-confidence and ultimately, encourage brand loyalty. As Greenlite’s Lighting Doctor says: “A bad changing room experience can make or break how customers feel about a particular store.”

Here are 8 our top tips for getting the light right…

1. Avoid using traditional fluorescent lighting. It can have a colour draining effect, making clothes look faded and giving skin an unhealthy, greyish tinge. LED lighting’s ability to replicate daylight means it shows off colours to their best advantage. Put simply, a red dress will look brighter under LED lighting than it will under incandescent bulbs.

2. Remember that lighting and mood go hand in hand. Poor quality lighting has been linked to fatigue and low mood, neither of which are conducive to a happy shopper. LED lighting, with its ability to mimic daylight, is energising.

3. Used alone, ceiling lights can cast distracting shadows across shoppers’ faces and bodies. It can also draw attention to dust and dirt on the floor. Instead, use multiple overhead fixtures as well as vertical lighting, ideally around mirrors.

4. Don’t forget to extend decent lighting beyond the dressing room – shoppers will emerge to look in larger mirrors or ask a friend’s opinion.

5. Keep lighting and mirrors honest – customers want to be flattered, not airbrushed into elegant Goddesses. If the fit and colour look markedly different at home, the item will be swiftly returned.

6. Our selfie obsession means the changing room has effectively become a photo studio. Shoppers snap themselves in potential purchases, so they can compare options and show friends. Evenly diffused lighting will enhance their images.

7. One final tip to retailers… Brilliant lighting is a waste of time without the right mirrors. Invest in good quality glass that gives a top-to-toe reflection.

8. Make your lighting work harder by pairing it with a neutral colour scheme. The best LED system will struggle to create a flattering ambience if set against garish or dingy walls.