Based in the United Arab Emirates, the Nesto hypermarket chain was set up in 2004 by local consumer electronics firm Geepas International. It now owns dozens of supermarkets and department stores across the Gulf region. Lux met Ovais Hashmi, Nesto's senior project architect, to hear about how it uses lighting.
Good lighting drives sales
When we lease, buy or build any new properties, my team and I work out how we want our customers to feel inside and what pattern of food items and fashion and apparel locations is best, according to the demographic profi le of that particular site. In this part of the world where we have mixed nationalities, shoppers have different patterns of exploring stores – so we need to place all these departments strategically and design them in a unique way to generate more sales. I understand the purpose and effects of light on the merchandise, and I will not hesitate to say that it sometimes can be directly in proportion to the sales generated.
"Retailers should hire designers for their lighting. It makes sure the space is lit properly and will enhance sales"
Experimenting is important
Our design is always based on research and discussions with different lighting suppliers from all around the world. We always stand these products in our studio, jacking up the lux level and creating a mock-up of a small store. I feel that these days you have to see it, and prototype excellent design to get the brand identity right. Here at Nesto we always try to explore new ideas and materials to incorporate into our design, and we try to give our customers a different shopping environment with every new project we come up with.
We’re starting to use LED
The department store where we sell our fashion items, we usually use metal halide because that has more light output, but recently we have tried LED lights as well, because in men’s and women’s apparel we need a lot of focal light and ambient light so a customer can feel the texture and see the details of the fabric. We use the diffuse lights in our ceilings so that it can defi ne the horizontal and vertical space, giving the overall impact of space to the customer. It is not easy to convince my owner to invest almost double the amount in a lighting system. But making him aware about the long-term profit, the environmental advantages and the impact on the customers, he gave us the green light.
Energy efficiency isn’t a high priority in the Middle East - yet
Energy efficiency is the call of today, but it is not much encouraged in the Middle East right now. It’s not a high priority with a lot of retailers here, but some responsible retail giants have taken the initiative, and I hope that this will inspire others. When we talk about energy efficiency and maintenance of the lights, in a fraction of a second those three magical letters pop up in your mind: LED. We’ve used LED high bay lights in our hypermarket and the results have been amazing in both visual appearance and power consumption. The authorities here limit the amount of power we can use for a building, like a mall, so sometimes we don’t have the permission to use a lot of power. That’s why we’re going with LED lights, because the power consumption is lower.
Good relationships with suppliers really help
When you have a long-running relationship with a supplier, they can give you light fi ttings on credit, or give you more discount, or more details, they come to you when they have new technology, or when they have a system we can use in our store. They offer us valuable advice, so I feel it is quite important to maintain relationships with vendors because it saves you in the long run.
I wouldn’t buy a product without a good warranty
I don’t have faith in any vendor that doesn’t give a good warranty. I won’t go with a product that doesn’t have a warranty of at least three or four years. In this part of the world, normally a retail store goes for fi ve or six years until we change the whole interior, so if the supplier is not giving us the warranty, it is going to cost us a lot in the long run. Maintenance has always been the spine of any negotiation when it comes to the purchase of a light, because like everything else, lights come with an expiry date. We also do a biannual audit of lux levels in stores to make sure they’re maintained.
Retailers shouldn’t overdo it with lighting
Retailers should try not to use lights unnecessarily. The buildings over here sometimes are overdesigned, and they do the same in lighting. The grid distance between lights is too low, which makes the space more and more bright, and sometimes it’s annoying. Retailers should hire designers so they can plan for the lights. It makes sure the space is lit properly, and will enhance sales.