Harnessing natural light is changing the way we shop – and that’s due in part to the enormous psychological benefits of incorporating natural light into the built environment.  Natural lighting specialist, Solatube, has noticed an increase in demand from the retail sector.

“It’s like combining retail therapy with light therapy. It harks back to the 1990s when that hallowed haven of US retail, Wal-Mart, began progressively replacing artificial lights with skylights and other natural light sources in many of their stores,” explains Solatube Commercial Manager, Darryl Wicks. “Expecting to see their energy bills decline, they also found that natural light produced a large increase in sales for products in certain areas of their stores.”

Perth warehouse Spearwood Furniture is a large retail premises that saw its average daily energy consumption plummet from 241kWH to 95kWH, thanks to a complete overhaul by Solatube Commercial Daylighting Systems. Now, Spearwood doesn’t use any electric lighting during the daylight hours. The retailer’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) costs have also been lowered, as the Solatube system produces significantly less heat than the majority of high-bay light fittings.

“Energy efficiency goes well beyond reducing the electricity account and Spearwood has achieved that by providing natural daylight to enhance the shopping experience. Additionally, staff have commented on how the building is now a cooler place to work in, as a result of the removal of the heat produced by artificial lighting,” says Mr Wicks. “The Solatube system provides the pinnacle of light input, colour consistency and the desired quality of light consistency day after day.”

Increased sales

A 2003 Heschong Mahone study in the US found evidence that good daylighting was found to increase sales by up to 40 per cent*. This research revealed that integrating green design, such as access to natural light and ventilation and choosing materials that are low in harmful chemicals, can improve retail takings.

“Products stored in areas lit by natural light sold in higher numbers than products kept under artificial light, often to a significant degree. By switching the locations of certain products, stores could enhance sales of one and decrease sales of the other,” explains Mr Wicks. 

Customer disposition and desire 

Scientific studies clearly show that natural light increases mood and productivity in the workplace. Evidence from retailers shows that it has the same effect on customers in a sales environment. Big-brand retail stores that light their checkout environment using natural light tend to have higher per-customer spending than their artificially lit counterparts. This has been attributed to the effect of natural light on people’s moods and desires – a positive, action-driven effect.

“Installing natural lighting above checkouts is an excellent way to enhance the mood of customers and increases their likelihood of purchasing products. Due to the forward location of checkouts, customers can benefit from walking in to store and experiencing natural light, as well as departing into natural light,” says Mr Wicks.

A key aspect of retail success is maintaining a happy and motivated workforce – a goal that natural light is paramount in achieving. People who work in retail stores that use natural light have higher levels of happiness, decreased fatigue, and better output and productivity than their peers. This means a motivated, effective sales team that’s capable of increasing revenue and creating a more effective retail business. “In addition to the savings made possible by natural lighting, the increase in revenue that it can lead to makes it an obvious choice for both small and big retailers,” adds Mr Wicks.

*Heschong Mahone Group, Inc  – Daylighting and Productivity, 2003 http://h-m-g.com/projects/daylighting/summaries%20on%20daylighting.htm