The lighting scheme that increased a shop's sales ‘by 12%’

Lighting manufacturer Zumtobel reckons it has answered the question of whether lighting can boost sales.

Zumtobel claims a fashion retailer in Germany saw its sales go up by around 12 per cent compared to another local store, after it installed a new lighting scheme specially designed to appeal to the personality profile of its target customers.

German fashion chain Gerry Weber changed the lighting in one of its stores, based on research findings indicating that certain personality types feel more comfortable – and are inclined to stay longer – under certain types of light. 

The entrance of the store, before (top) and after (bottom) the new lighting was installed

‘After three months [with the new scheme], the store now confirms a 12 per cent sales increase on average – it jumps between 8 and 15 – compared to a control store eight kilometres away with the same sales volume and nearly the same client group,’ said Leif Escher, a product manager at Zumtobel. The scheme was devised by Zumtobel with the help of Gruppe Nymphenburg Consult – experts in so-called 'neuromarketing' – studying people's brains and emotions to understand why they buy things.

As well as comparing sales to a nearby store, the research looked at customers' emotional reactions to the new lighting scheme. Shoppers were equipped with sensors to monitor reactions such as heart activity and brain waves when walking around the shop before and after its lighting upgrade. ‘The stress level is much lower than before and the customers stayed in some areas longer than before. We measured different kind of reactions in the same spots before and after the new design, so it does have an impact,’ said Seyhan Baris, global key account manager of Zumtobel.

The redesign of the store was based on a previously conducted study which divides shoppers into personality types and identifies what type of lighting they prefer. The test subjects were exposed to a range of light settings to measure how they responded to combinations of light colour, output, directional and beam distribution and brightness and colour contrasts.

Broadly speaking, the study found that calm types prefer warm, uniform lighting at 800lx with moderate beam angles on the products. Adventurous types like a more contrasting environment with spotlights and accent lighting at 500lx. People driven by discipline and performance will turn away from ‘unbalanced’ lighting environments and respond positively to uniform vertical lighting on shelves, dimmed accent lighting in coves and display cabinets and wide beam angles on the point of sale.

Gerry Weber targets women between the ages of 45 and 60, who mostly fall into the calm, family-oriented category. To make the lighting more suitable for this group pf people, Zumtobel added accent lighting to some parts of the test store and increased light levels from 450 to 600lx. The colour temperature and colour rendering levels stayed the same.

The results open up possibilities for retailers wanting to create the best possible sales environments for specific personality types. Baris said: ‘If people feel well in the shop they are more likely to stay longer and they are more likely to buy something.’

But not everyone agrees that the causality is this simple. Simon Waldron, Sainsbury’s electrical engineering manager who is currently studying for a PhD on the impact of high CRI LED luminaires on product sales, said: ‘I think the research lacks a bit of academic rigour in these studies; there are so many variables that may contribute to that sales increase. Was there a new coffee shop outside the store that encouraged people to go into it? I don’t think we’re there yet to categorically say that lighting increases sales.’

Dave Tilley, a lighting consultant who devised the lighting scheme of The Body Shop, said: ‘I’m not falling into the trap of saying sales have gone up, but lighting has to support sales and be part of the customer’s visual experience. You can't just say lighting is the reason you bought a product, there are too many other factors to consider.’

Lighting designer Dominic Meyrick also addressed the question of whether lighting could boost sales, saying, ‘You’re a braver man than I am if you think you can say yes.’