Our website uses cookies

Cookies enable us to provide the best experience possible and help us understand how visitors use our website. By browsing Retail Design World, you agree to our use of cookies.

Okay, I understand Learn more

Bringing light to changing rooms

Given the terribly poor lighting of many stores’ fitting rooms, it may come as a surprise that around 60 per cent of purchasing decisions are made there, according to research carried out by Shoppercentric for Philips.

The usual fitting room failures include too much or conversely too little illumination. “Anything that creates an artificial environment – be it overly bright with overuse of fluorescent light fittings, or under-lit with unfit for purpose overhead downlights,” is bad for shoppers, says Sarah Hindmarsh, head of interiors of design company 20.20.

All that fluorescent can have an unpleasant effect on customers’ skin texture and tone, she adds. Kam Young, director of design consultancy Kiwi & Pom, backs this up: “Bright fluorescents beam a cold light, which is unflattering in the mirror.”

Likewise, the positioning of lights and the angle of their rays are key. “You don’t want to cast shadow on a person’s face or body, so you need a nice spread of light,” says Young. “If light is directly above them, you direct shadow on their face.” It’s much better, he adds, to position lights between the person and mirror.

Hindmarsh echoes this, saying “often changing rooms lack direct vertical lighting, which is helpful to eliminate shadow effect, and help with highlighting garment details, as well as to flatter and create a natural environment.” 20.20’s design of a luxury lingerie area for a department store in Europe is soon to launch.

These issues have taken on some urgency with the rise and rise of online shopping. In the last year, UK sales of online fashion have gone up by 14.5 per cent to £10.7bn, with sales expected to reach £19bn by 2019, according to market research firm Mintel.

Online sales in the UK now account for approximately 17% of total spending on clothing and footwear, that’s up from 13% in 2011.

“Customer footfall on the high street is increasingly becoming a challenge, so we need to maximise every opportunity we can within the store,” says House of Fraser store manager Tim Hyde, “service is a massive part of that.”

“When thinking about the customer experience, changing rooms are a particular focus,” says Emmeline Whitaker, creative designer at Philips Lighting, “especially given how many purchase decisions are made here, and (the fact that they) provide shoppers with a reason to come in-store rather than buy online.”

The lighting manufacturer’s recent pilot scheme for House of Fraser on London’s Oxford Street illustrates this. Working with the chain’s head of design for store development, Phil Looker, Philips has introduced interactive lighting scenes into the general and lingerie fitting rooms.

The existing system comprised a T5 fluorescent mirror light strip, supplemented by a recessed metal halide downlight and a decorative wall sconce. “The result was an unwelcoming space with uncomfortable glare that also highlighted shadows on the customers’ bodies,” says Hindmarsh. What’s more, customers had little idea “what the clothes would look like in the different environments they would be wearing them”. 

This has been ditched in favour of the Philips AmbiScene Occasions mirrors. These have a tuneable white light that can be adjusted by scene-setting controls, meaning customers can select day, evening, by the pool and natural (daylight) lighting scenes.

Meanwhile the recessed downlights have been replaced with suspended square LED feature luminaires to give indirect ceiling (or cove) lighting. The wall lights have been re-located and fitted with MASTER LED lamps.

Similarly, in a scheme that Kiwi & Pom is developing for a Bluewater lingerie store fitting rooms will feature pendants to create low-level lighting for a domestic feel, “rather than focus the eye on the lighting in the ceiling”, say Young.

There’s also simulated outdoor and indoor light in Japanese design company Nendo’s fitting rooms for Seibu department store in Tokyo. The colourful rooms on the store’s ‘contemporary luxury’ floor, called COMPOLUX, are finished with polyester ivy painted in different hues.

These effects are pulled off with built-in lighting from Modulex and LED downlighting.

In Milan’s Montenapoleone fashion district, London-based designer Claudio Silvestrin needed to off-set a boutique interior of natural materials with effective changing room lighting.

His Giada fashion boutique features limestone from the Dolomites, cast bronze and natural leather, to create an environment “where the ancient and the modern embrace one another in a calm and elegant space”, says Silvestrin.

Leather is used for both the floor and walls in the fitting rooms, where square recessed ceiling lighting from Martini Light is complemented by warm white LEDs.

One upside of LEDs is that they give off much less heat than some other lighting types, making changing room occupants less uncomfortable.

Whether such efforts can stave off the move to internet shopping and encourage people out into physical stores remains to be seen. But in the meantime, lighting and store designers are getting to flex their muscles in these small but important spaces.

What’s Hot on Retail Design World?