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Setting the Mood Lighting

This weekend I undertook something that I had been dreading for over a year – shampooing our store carpets and of course, that got me thinking about store lighting.

The carpet was new when we opened our current location four years ago and is vacuumed every week but it was obvious that the vacuum wasn’t good enough. So, I hauled all the spinners, statues, t-shirt racks and portable book shelves to the back and brought in a shampoo machine. Boy did the store need it. The water I was pouring out was black. I think in six months I’m going to have some professionals come in and do it again.

While I was finishing up I noticed that our fluorescent lights in several panels were running on half the bulbs. We change our mini spot lights whenever they burn out but hadn’t paid attention to the fluorescent panels for a long time. I changed out a dozen bulbs and still have to go buy more. The affect on the store was immediate. Between the clean carpet and the new bulbs, everything was suddenly brighter and fresher.

In the process of changing bulbs I realized that we somehow had ended up with a lot of different kinds of bulbs that did very different things to the store. There were two different colors – blue and yellow. There were also several wattages ranging from 25 – 40. The yellow lights didn’t seem as bright even though they had higher wattages than the blue lights but they produced a light that complimented our store which is done primarily in dark brown wood and tan colors. The blue lights made things seem brighter but the color clashed with the dark wood shelves in the store and reminded me of a grocery store’s lights. Maybe in a store with a lot of blue and glass shelving these lights would work. The combination of colors also made the store look disjointed.

The other problem is that the wattages of the lights came in 25, 34 and 40 watt varieties which made the light panels look very checkerboard in appearance and also made it look like some lights were failing when they weren’t. The 25 watt bulbs are really not meant for a store and should be reserved for a garage shop.

It may take some work, but I recommend that you take an inventory of what’s in your ceiling and see if you can unify your store lighting. It’s amazing what it can do for the appearance.

The other thing I would recommend is taking a look at your track lighting – you do have track lighting, don’t you? These small but bright lights are ideal for art, crucifixes and jewelry spinners. They visually set aside portions of your store that should contain your higher profit items. Part of selling higher margin, higher priced items is the presentation. It isn’t a matter of tricking them into buying something, it’s showing that you value the products you sell as much as their future owners.

Customers who are going to spend some money want to be able to see what they are buying. Why do you think jewelry stores are so brightly lit with lamps on their counters to add even more brightness when they show you an item? Why do you think that jewelry cases in nice jewelry stores don’t have overlapping or stacked shelves? They want you to be able to clearly see every item in the cases.

If you use the counter style of jewelry case, make sure that they aren’t dust collecting bins where your product goes to die. They need to have internal spot lights and the shelves shouldn’t cast shadows on the product. I recommend that you ditch these cases entirely and move to freestanding jewelry spinners. These are usually available from your jewelry vendors in two and four-sided configurations and may also be available in a three-sided style. They will usually send you a case for free if you buy the merchandise to fill it. If you are on good terms with your vendor and already have a lot of their jewelry in stock, you may be able to get them to ship you one for your existing inventory. They know it will help you sell more of their items.

If your store doesn’t have track lighting, here are some tips for installation.

  1. Choose an area of your store to be your art and jewelry gallery.
  2. Do something with paint or construct an alcove that sets this area apart from the rest of the store – remember, this is the “special” section of the store.
  3. Figure out where you want displays and signs to go.
  4. Draw a simple floor plan that you can overlay with the tracks and location of your track lights. This doesn’t need to be anything complex, just to scale. Simple squares for spinners are fine.
  5. Position the lights on your drawing far enough away from your displays so that the light will shine directly on the product in the cases or on the walls and not down on the top of the displays which is actually worse than having no track lighting at all because you end up with shadows on all the items. When our lights were installed, the designer didn’t take an overhanging shelf into account at the front of the store and part of our front displays are always in a shadow because the lights are too close. A good rule of thumb that has worked in our store is to keep the lights at least three horizontal feet away from the displays. We have a twelve foot ceiling so your distance will probably need to be a little less if your ceiling is lower.
  6. Take your plans to your landlord and ask if you can get a rent credit for the changes you make. If you are willing to trade leaving the lights in the store if you move for a discount on your rent, this is a great strategy that can actually make the changes free to you.
  7. Find an electrician that comes highly recommended by someone you trust and is actually licensed and on record with the city. Even then you could have a problem. Our original electrician, from Integrity Electric, skipped town halfway through the job. Fortunately, we had only paid him part up front.
  8. Make sure that you have the work inspected. Unless you know something about wiring, it is quite possible that you will get taken for a ride by someone unscrupulous.
  9. Sit back and enjoy the improved look and sales in your store!

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