Whilst many people find that shopping raises the heart rate for all the wrong reasons, others – and not just shopaholics – will advocate that shopping is an all-round pleasant experience. Not only does it actually burn calories as you trawl through the sale rails and dash from floor to floor, but it releases those all-important mood-lifting endorphins each and every time you fall in love with that pair of must-have shoes. But how exactly do shopping centres ensure those happy faces remain just that?

It is all about creating an atmosphere that people want to be part of and lets them feel comfortable. And whilst a shopping centre’s architecture goes a long way to making things look appealing, this should be brought to life with the help of appropriate retail-centric lighting. Inside the shops is ultimately where you spend your money and time, making them the unquestionable stars of the show, so finding the correct lighting to compliment them as well as the surrounding architecture is an art.

Bespoke Lighting | Friars Walk, Newport | Light Lab

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, lighting of course bears a function, which is ultimately to make sure people are able to do what they came to do – shop. Without light, that can not happen. Gently illuminating surfaces helps to guide the customer around, or even takes them where you want them to go – a sales technique in itself. Clearly marking entrances, exits and signage is of course a necessity, but casting light upon large surfaces can create gradient shadows, character and contrast. Walkways effectively serve as gleaming, yellow-bricked roads that lead to the shops, therefore they need to light the way in style and not compete with the shops – a fine balance to be struck, but spotlights can do areas such as these justice.

Asides from the shops, the one place where people might spend an even greater period of time is the food court. Illuminations from above create an even spread of colour, casting light upon every nook and cranny to ensure everyone is comfortable. Lighting from any other angle is likely to create unattractive areas of darkness where people are unlikely to sit as they struggle to see what it is they are eating.

But how do shops stand out amid a sea of inconceivably similar offerings all shouting to be heard above the noise? Whilst on-point branding and well-thought-out shop window displays go a long way, once again, much of the appeal is down to the lighting. The importance of lighting design in retail has grown significantly over the past 30 years, meaning retail lighting has come a long way, with new LED and halogen capabilities being introduced to take the place of incandescent lighting. As a consequence, architects and designers have become more experimental and creative with their work in order to really set their clients apart with bespoke lighting displays, much like The Light Lab’s recent work for Paspaley in Melbourne where the team manufactured a range of bespoke pearl string LED fittings to add a sense of theatre to proceedings.

Paspaley | Retail lighting | The Light Lab
With shopping centres no longer serving as places to simply shop and instead emerging as entertainment destinations in their own right, eye-catching facades could not be more important in ensuring visitors are drawn in by the engaging and all-round enticing. Times are changing, and architectural lighting is a consideration that needs to be at front of architects’ minds, to ensure design, structural and lighting considerations all live in harmony, rather than as last minute additions.

Author Ellen Murphy