You might say that the size of lamps for retail stores is literally finding a new niche. Actually, much smaller niches than before, as new introductions from manufacturers drive down the size of fixtures needed for both ambient illumination and highlighting merchandise.

Last October's meeting of the New York chapter of the Institute of Store Planners was sponsored by four leading producers of retail store lighting: Juno Lighting/ Danalite, Lucifer Lighting Co., SuperVision International, and Stylemark. Guest speaker was Cynthia Turner, vice president and director of lighting design for FRCH Design Worldwide, New York.

Turner enthusiastically supports the trend toward diminutive, high-performance lamps for retail applications. She points out that the smaller lamps now available--for example, new MR-11s 13/8" in diameter--offer expanded store design opportunities. "More than ever, we're integrating lighting into architecture. Lighting is part of the overall design, not just part of the ceiling."

It is well-accepted that a store's lighting is critical to its effective performance, i.e., how it contributes to moving merchandise. How well the lighting is handled can set a store--and its designer--apart. In the field of retail store design, designers have built successful practices on their lighting design talents (as in-house lighting specialists, or in collaboration with outside lighting consultants) as well as their more traditional architectural and planning skills. The methods by which the designer can add sales appeal to the merchandise by lighting effects while staying within the constraints of the project's budget (and applicable energy codes) mean a great deal to clients and prospective customers.

A store's lighting plan should motivate the customer to purchase, add to the perceived value of the merchandise, divide the merchandise area, and help direct shoppers to the merchandise. It should also minimize structural deficiencies, give accurate color rendition to flatter merchandise and customers, make shoppers feel more comfortable, add visual interest, and respect the architecture.

Turner credits advancements in technology by leading producers that have led to the fixture miniaturization trend. "The energy consumption is at the same level as the older, larger fixtures, while the output is greater. This means more energy efficacy and reduced heat output," she says.

Reducing showcase heat is another benefit offered by the smaller lamps. For the renovation of the open-plan cosmetics department at the House of Fraser in Swindon, UK, FRCH specified 35W metal-halide PAR lamps without filters for the accent lights, and incorporated 20W MR-11 halogen lamps into the design of the open-sell freestanding walls. "The new technology available has made it possible to brightly light the selling space and the merchandise with minimum energy, and to maintain this illumination level at lower costs," Turner says.

She adds that more FRCH retail clients want to use colored lighting to achieve theatrical looks. For the 1,850-sq.-ft. (166.5 sq. m) On Stage shop at Harrah's Las Vegas, Turner specified Philips 35W metal-halide PAR lamps (equal to 150W incandescent) and added colored gels that fit into a slot in the fixture's housing.

At the meeting, Turner discussed some of the benefits offered by today's most popular retail lamps. She stated that 35W PAR-30 CDM metal-halides feature long life (10,000 hours), good lamp-to-lamp color consistency, high CRI (85), and high efficacy (95 lumens/W). Compared to 120V halogens, 20W MR-11s offer compact size, high efficiency, and longer life. The advantages of using T2 compact fluorescents include their small size (1/4" diameter), 10,000-hour life span, high system efficiency, and space-saving ballasts.