Incorporating natural light into the built environment not only reduces energy bills but also delivers psychological benefits to occupants. Solatube Australia observes that natural light has a positive effect on buyer behaviour in retail environments; the natural lighting specialist has noticed an increase in demand for natural lighting systems 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 worked with Solatube Commercial Daylighting Systems on a complete overhaul of their lighting system, and saw their average daily energy consumption plummet from 241kWH to 95kWH. Following the installation of Solatube daylighting systems, the large retail store doesn’t need to use any electric lighting during the day. Additionally, their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) costs have also been lowered since the Solatube system produces significantly less heat than the 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 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 study published in 2003 had revealed the positive effect of daylighting on retail sales. The research by Heschong Mahone Group, Inc titled ‘Daylighting and Productivity’ found evidence that good daylighting increased 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 receipts.

“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 Wicks.

Customer disposition and desire 

Similar to how natural light enhances mood and productivity in the workplace, retail spaces also benefit through higher spends by customers. Big-brand retail stores that use natural light in their checkout environment tend to have higher per-customer spending than their artificially lit counterparts.

“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 into the store and experiencing natural light, as well as exiting into natural light,” says Wicks.

A happy and motivated workforce is one of the key elements contributing to retail success. People employed in retail stores that use natural light have higher levels of happiness, lower fatigue, and better output and productivity than their peers. This translates into 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 Wicks.