whether boutique or big box, retail design measures its success by sales figures. The lighting in such an environment can contribute helpful visual cues toward the ultimate goal of selling product, including attracting customers, showcasing merchandise, guiding visitors through the store, and indicating where to pay and exit. Recent trends in retail lighting design include themed environments, theatrical elements such as moving and colored lighting effects, and advanced controls systems. The most noteworthy developments for these spaces have been in the area of source technology. Advances in lamp life and color rendition have lowered maintenance costs and improved the appearance of merchandise. Popular options for retail environments include ceramic metal halide, high-output and high-wattage fluorescent lamps, daylighting and LEDs. A trip to almost any mall today will find these sources comfortably cohabitating with the fluorescent and halogen archetypes we know so well.

ceramic metal halide A growing favorite among lighting designers and retailers, ceramic metal halide provides a superior lumen package, a 10,000-hour lamp life, a color temperature of 3000K, and a color rendering index of 85. For retail applications, this source is most commonly employed, like its halogen cousin, as merchandise accent lighting in a track head. In an attempt to help the retailer minimize lamp stock, Cooper Lighting recently introduced the MiniLume track head for the ceramic metal halide T4 bi-pin envelope featuring adjustable optics for flood and spot beam configurations. The PAR lamp, though, continues to act as the workhorse of retail lighting. The drawbacks: like any HID source, ceramic metal halide cannot instantly switch on, nor can it be consistently or cost-effectively dimmed.

fluorescent Like metal halide, fluorescent technology gets better every year. Ongoing improvements in color rendering index, lumens per watt, lamp life, dimming capabilities, and color temperature options make fluorescent an excellent source for retail illumination. The flat and even illumination quality produced by fluorescent lighting can create terrific uniformity but does little to promote visual diversity; whether or not this is a benefit depends on the retailer. The T5 and T5HO linear fluorescent lamps pack more lumens in a smaller package, equaling fewer lamps, ballasts and fixtures to maintain. Higher wattage (57W and 70W) compact fluorescent lamps offer alternatives to HID sources for big-box retailers. Not only do these newer fluorescent lamps provide the same lamp life and lumen output as metal halide, with instant on and dimming capabilities they offer increased energy savings as well.

daylight For full-spectrum illumination, no source performs like reflected natural light; moreover, daylighting reduces energy and maintenance costs and has been shown to contribute to increased sales. Direct sunlight on merchandise is not desirable since it can spoil perishables, cause fading, and create glare and dramatic contrast ratios; therefore, daylight should be incorporated in retail spaces using light shelves, skylights, light tubes or pipes, louvers, and screening. Ambient illumination and higher lighting levels for accent highlighting can be achieved with the proper application of these elements.

light emitting diodes Like fiber optics 10 years ago, solid-state technology is creating a stir in the lighting community. LEDs boast a tremendous lamp life. Red LEDS, for example, are true performers with 100,000 hours of life until half brightness and 4 to 5 lumens per LED. An acceptable form of white light has yet to be developed, however. The white LED is actually a blue semi-conductor with a yellow phosphor; this combination produces a color temperature of around 5500K to 6500K, the color of daylight minus its rendering capabilities. LEDs are not yet a viable or cost-friendly solution for ambient and accent illumination of merchandise, but are a fantastic source for cove lighting, niches, casework displays and color accents.

With the demand from retailers to increase sales, decrease maintenance and energy costs, and create unique brand imaging, there is no doubt technology in these areas will continue to improve, offering designers more options for cost-effective creative design solutions. morgan gabler

Morgan Gabler is a senior lighting designer with Atlanta-based Newcomb & Boyd's Lighting Design Group. Gabler has received several International Illumination Design Awards of Merit and is past president of the Georgia section of the IESNA.