Reimagining Supermarkets as High-End Retail Destinations

 In Supermarket

Above: Supermarkets are relamping their stores with dramatic retail lighting that rivals any fancy boutique

The supermarket industry is a rapidly growing field. In 2018 alone, store openings were up 30 percent, with ribbons cut on 17 million square feet of new grocery stores, according to JLL’s Grocery Tracker 2019 report.

Driving much of that growth are small format supermarket chains and traditional grocery stores offering a more upscale shopping experience. Regardless of the store size, supermarkets are taking cues from high-end retailers, like clothing boutiques to retool their offerings. Store lighting is a key ingredient in creating that high-end shopping experience.

The growth in new stores comes as shoppers see their supermarkets modernizing. While the industry as a whole isn’t exactly cutting edge, it’s changing rapidly. In 2018, a study found 48 percent of consumers think grocery stores “haven’t changed in decades” and should modernize. The 2019 follow-up study found that number had dropped to 40 percent.

Aside from things like mobile apps and food delivery, the study found a key part of “modernizing” was changing product offerings. Consumers want more hot and cold prepared foods and 80 percent of shoppers rated supermarkets better when they had quality offerings in their perimeter departments.

Think “Fresh”

Not surprisingly, fresh foods are a strong driver. The same study found 65 percent of shoppers gave approving marks to stores’ efforts to boost their healthy and fresh options.

Merchandise that looks good sells better, and nowhere is that truer than in a supermarket’s perimeter departments. To ensure shoppers see these high-margin areas in the best light, they need the best light. Literally.

Lighting plays a critical role in merchandising products in grocery stores, especially in the fresh departments. Fresh foods look their best under lighting that showcases its natural colors—think lush greens and rich reds.

Above: Use the slider to see the difference a metal halide lamp and Amerlux’s high color quality LEDs. 

Color is the language of fresh, so it is critical that fresh foods, such as produce and red meat, be seen in the best light. LED light showcases the natural color, making grocers’ tomatoes look like they were picked that morning.

Quality Counts

Closely related to freshness perceptions, quality counts for supermarkets. The 2019 Retailer Preference Index found “shoppers do not generally distinguish between the quality of the assortment and the quality of the store experience. This means that to improve the quality perception of their assortment, they must also improve the quality perception of their store experience. Stores that do this win the quality perception game.”

Since a compelling store experience and product quality are linked in customer minds, it’s more critical than ever that supermarkets deliver on overall excellence.

For example, supermarkets have traditionally been lit with bright, even illumination. That even lighting evoked cleanliness to grocers, but it doesn’t make anything stand out. A better way to illuminate a store is to take a cue from the world of theater and leverage lighting to make fresh products the stars of the show.

Lighting stores in this way gives the perception of value and enhances the customer experience. Lighting also sends subtle hints about what is important—if everything is lit the same way, nothing is important. When items have a spotlight and are brighter than the other areas, our brains process that as meaning they are more important.

It’s all in the contrast ratio: that is putting more light on the products than on the surrounding areas. The higher the contrast, the more the store is like a theater. Just as you can’t help but notice the one face on stage with the spotlight on it, the same principle of lighting applies to fresh produce. Some supermarkets will put up to 10 times the light on the product as they do on the ambient area.

Lighting also directs people and helps them navigate the store. Modulating the light levels—with brightly lit end caps, washing the walls with light—delivers an upscale retail experience. Today’s shoppers appreciate that value and purchase more.

Lighting is a key part of the shopping experience and a critical tool for supermarkets to leverage as they keep up with changing consumer preferences. As traditional supermarkets compete with new grocery concepts like small-format stores, C-stores and online shopping, lighting can elevate the shopping experience and set supermarkets apart.

Amerlux has been on the forefront of supermarket lighting since the 1980s. Learn more about their supermarket solutions, including the Fresh Color LEDs that make fresh foods like produce sparkle.

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