Case Study – Primark

Key points

  • LAPD has a 10-year relationship with Primark
  • Began with reviewing an existing specification through to recommending. Now advising, designing and initiating changes
  • Works carried out with standard high street stores
  • Works carried out with international flagship stores
  • Collaborations with Primark direct and two interior design agencies D&P and HMKM
  • Collaborations with TTG Architects, 3D Reid Architects, Prosper, Gensler, Jack Coughlan Architects
  • Developing bespoke feature solutions for each store to match local narrative; facades/windows, trend rooms, atria, atrium frames, fitting rooms, cash desks, shoes, shoe walls, walkways and social media booths.

Overview

Gone are the days when Primark was perceived as a budget low-end retailer.  Over the past decade, Primark has established itself as a contemporary fashion brand, competing with many of the other big retailers.  They have grown into a strong brand, known across the globe, with over 320 stores worldwide that reach a massively diverse audience.

Over the last 10 years, LAPD has researched, developed and designed Primark lighting scheme.  The subsequent evolution created a vibrant and dynamic lit environment to complement their ever-evolving store and brand identity.

Timeline

2008 – Oxford Street

At the very beginning of LAPD’s collaboration with Primark, they engaged us to review the existing lighting.  These proposals were developed and adopted through the years by Primark with their London-based interior designers, Dalziel & Pow.

Convenience and luminaire aesthetics drove the existing lighting specification.  This resulted in a trial and error approach which created their overlit and flat environment.

The lighting scheme was a prominent visual within the store, but the lit environment was not satisfactory.  As a result, the scheme was inefficient, over-illuminated and full of disparities.  Primark required an independent consultant to fully scrutinise the lighting specifications.

2009 – Tooting

We performed a full review of the Oxford Street store.  It included site surveys and a detailed analysis of the energy, maintenance, cost, and specifications.  LAPD tackled each of these aspects, setting out new proposals for implementation within the Tooting store.

The Oxford Street store utilised numerous high wattage lamp types which were a huge contributing factor to the overall inefficiency of the lighting product lifecycle.  Hence, the aim was to reduce the perceived required lighting levels as well as the number of lamp types by 50%, from 10 to 5.  This, in turn, would improve energy, maintenance, procurement, and costs schedules.

The main sales floor lighting consisted of high wattage T5 fluorescents and a plethora of metal halide lamps.  Single and twin 54W T5 luminaires and 70W CDM-T, TC, and TD were all in use.   They produced an excessively bright and flat space.

We reduced the T5 fluorescent lamps from twin 54W to twin 28W, and 70W metal halide lamps to 35W across the field.  Therefore, to compensate for the reduction in lamp wattages we specified higher performance reflectors with significantly higher light output ratios.

A fluorescent pelmet, along with 150W metal halide wall washers, flooded perimeter surfaces with a flat light.  This created little to no variation and diluted the accent lighting, mimicking the flat main sales floor environment.  We introduced a lower wattage lamp package, dropping from the 150W to 70W.  Again, we used higher efficiency reflectors with different beam angles to create peaks and troughs and a less homogenous effect.

With a few key changes to the specification, we reduced the energy consumption by 25% and overall fitting quantities by 13% with wider spacings in comparison to the previous schemes.

From the survey of the Oxford Street store, we knew that the average lighting levels were in excess of 2000 lux.  The intensely lit space lacked any variation or drama which made the environment dull.  With this in mind, the new scheme was implemented.  We used the lower output fittings with reduced wattages, greater efficiency and a variety of beam widths.

As a strategic trial, a lighting control system installed within the Tooting store.  This allowed the store’s sales floor and walkway fluorescent lighting to be dimmed. With this control, we were able to encourage Primark towards lowering their store light levels.  The use of lower ambient lighting levels created a calmer aesthetic while allowing the accent lighting to punch through.  This created a dynamic lit environment with a high perceived brightness and intensity, despite the average lighting levels reducing to 1200 lux.

This approach became the blueprint for future concepts.

2009 – EU specification

Following the success of the trials implemented at Tooting, LAPD was briefed to create a generic performance lighting specification suitable for European procurement and roll-out.

2012 – Oxford Street East

Oxford Street East is one of Primark’s largest stores and its leading UK flagship.  The store undergoes regular trials and development, keeping it refreshed and up-to-date.  Taking the knowledge and learnings from Tooting, the lighting scheme was evolved further.  The brief for Oxford Street East was to: balance the lighting levels across the shop floor; improve the lit environment; and increase flexibility while retaining the existing ceiling principles.

Architecturally, the store consisted of both exposed and closed ceilings.  This created large zones with fluctuating light levels due to the vast difference in reflected light.  The different fixtures and the perceived brightness of a closed white lay-in-grid ceiling contributed heavily to this as well.

To address this imbalance and improve the flexibility of the lit environment, LAPD reviewed the setting out, lamps and product types.  We replaced compact fluorescent downlights within closed ceilings with metal halide accent gimbals.  This had the effect of reducing the overall ambient level while providing adjustability.  Open ceiling areas were further supplemented with track and 35W metal halide spots to lift the light levels and increase versatility.

Key areas for improvement were the open ceiling departments.  The lighting trunking system adopted from previous store designs was typically a prominent feature, with large illuminated surfaces and the occasional accent light.  This system was highly inefficient, with high lumen output from twin 35W T5 fluorescent lamps being used ineffectively.  The level of ambient light diluted the impact of the integrated 35W metal halide accent lighting.  As a result, these parts of the store had bright, but flat and inflexible lighting.

Whilst retaining the overall aesthetic and lighting principle, LAPD reviewed and recommended a bespoke solution.

Current system:

32 no. (2x35W T5) x 6600 (lumens) x 0.42 (LOR) = 88,704 lm

16 no. (1x35W MH) x 3300 (lumens) x 0.82 (LOR) = 43,296 lm

Total lumen output = 132,000 lm

Total wattage (ex losses) = 2800W

 

Proposed system:

32 no. (1x28W T5) x 2600 (lumens) x 0.80 (LOR) = 66,560 lm

39 no. (1x35W MH) x 3300 (lumens) x 0.82 (LOR) = 105,534 lm

Total lumen output = 172,094 lm

Total wattage (ex losses) = 2261W

 

By removing the inefficiencies, we achieved a 19% reduction in energy consumption.  The proposed modular accent & ambient setup improved the flexibility significantly, with a 143% increase in useable accent lighting, and with the total effective lumen output increasing by 24%.

The same approach was executed within the walkways throughout the store, reaping the energy and increased flexibility benefits.

2013/2014 – Berlin

Berlin was one many forthcoming European flagship stores with a new wave of interior design from Dalziel & Pow.  A customer-focused store design with a local narrative and influence made each store more personal to the community.

The store concept encapsulated the industrial culture of Berlin.  This capturing of the local narrative set a benchmark for other European flagship stores.  Each department slowly developed a personality that clearly defined them apart from one another.  This allowed the shopfit to be distinguished, and visual merchandise to be brought to life.

Berlin has a shabby chic aesthetic with bare ceilings, walls, and variety of finishes from mesh cladding to local graffiti on the columns.  Each finish and feature enhances its urban characteristics.

The store required a new lighting concept, of course incorporating the previous basic principles. However, it was crucial that the lighting would not detract from the interior and more importantly the merchandise.  The new lighting concept was to be discreet, with greater emphasis on the lit effect, creating a dramatic and exciting environment with less visual and physical prominence within the space.  As a result, we designed an accent-driven scheme with reduced lighting levels and higher contrast, steering Primark further away from blanket ambient illumination.

Exposed ceilings were common throughout the store, with a plasterboard raft defining the perimeter and walkway.  The plasterboard features aid customer navigation and provide an element of calm within the busy ceiling space.  Within the open ceilings we employed a track system and 35W metal halide spotlights.  Because track can be installed in any orientation and fitted with movable spots, the design provides maximum flexibility.

A variety of narrow and medium beams made the scheme more forgiving, with less reliance on tight focussing of spotlights.  The narrow beam provided the punchy accent, while the medium beam created an infill light with plenty of spill into adjacent space.  The track and spots, finished in black, disappeared into the ceiling void so that only the lit effect was visible.

For the new concept, walkways received a completely different treatment from previous stores.  The energy saving design involved removing any fluorescent ambient lighting from the walkways to increase the contrast and visual brightness of the adjacent shop floor.  Further to this, we introduced a single defining black trough with track and spots within the plasterboard raft.  Central to the walkways, the spots provide additional accent lighting to merchandise on the edge of the sales floor.

The lower ambient levels throughout allowed the perimeter lamp packages to reduce from 70W to 50W, providing further energy savings.

The vertical circulation was a key area within the store, requiring careful consideration.  The concept was to use projection mapping along the upper floor to create movement and a constant dynamic environment.  The intention was to engage customers with live and interactive social media updates.

Transition spaces with high footfall require a good level of illumination to entice customers to navigate through the floors.  At Berlin, the challenge was the illumination of the escalator space without impacting on the projection mapping wall.

So, a motorised LED track spot allowed the fixtures to be remotely commissioned and focused on to the escalators.  These low profile spots, tucked up close to the soffit, avoided casting shadows from the two large projectors.  The narrow beam reflectors minimised light spill and the additional dimming control allowed fine-tuning to ensure zero impact on the projection wall.

Through the consistency of the lighting design and a rationalised specification, the overall lighting concept delivered a refreshing and dynamic lit environment with tremendous flexibility and huge energy savings, reducing from a staggering 55W/m2 to 20W/m2.

2013 – Dusseldorf

Running in parallel with Berlin, the Dusseldorf store adopted the new flagship concept.  Primark added new and inspirational features, in line with their drive to progress their store format.  These areas included the ‘Trend Room’, a shop-in-shop experience displaying the latest fashion releases, and improving the exterior presence through the store facade.  Correspondingly, both features required the development of dedicated lighting proposals.

2014 – Koln

Koln was the third installment of flagships within Germany. Further refinements to key areas were tested with a new emphasis on the storefront, creating a high visual impact. 84 bespoke frames of light scaled across the three storey store. The internal ‘facade’ was controlled with a remote DMX system which allowed dynamic scene sets; colour change, gradients, and pixilation which promoted movement and change.

Within the atrium, frames of light with static colours were hung in a facetted formation to further entice customers through the store.

2014 – Hague

Historically, Primark has used clusters of decorative aqua coloured rings above their escalators.  For the Hague, a new concept was developed, which could be used for generic roll-outs.  A polka-dot pattern of large, illuminated discs created a broken canopy above the vertical movement, while providing sufficient ambient levels on the escalator tread.

The current lighting concept had been developed to create a better-illuminated environment and to reduce the energy consumption. By omitting the old fluorescents and using a mix of metal halide and LED lamp technology, good energy savings were achieved.

2014/2018 – Toulouse

With advances in LED’s producing higher outputs more efficiently at lower costs, a shift towards to an all-LED scheme was feasible. LAPD developed and translated a LED performance specification that was suitable for Toulouse and the French market.

2015 – Brussels

Brussels was one of Primark’s first small footprint flagship stores. With the scale and format of this ’boutique’ store, it was possible to implement a 100% accent driven scheme.  In a first for Primark, the store used a fixed retail plan with bespoke shopfit.  A dedicated track and 35W metal halide spotlight system throughout applied dedicated accent lighting to the scheme.  For this particular store, we adopted a different approach to the walkway.  In previous stores, LAPD avoided illuminating the walkway to create the contrast against the shop floor.  However, the long and narrow footprint required a defining feature to draw customer through the store.  A wave of linear, LED battens flowed through the central walkway, creating a strong feature and vista to the back of the store.

2013/2015 – Madrid

Following the success of each flagship throughout Europe, Gran Via would be one of the most ambitious, restoring life to Madrid’s first department store.  Set over 5 floors, the store featured some unique challenges, in particular, the ground floor space beneath the enormous atrium.

With a need for dramatic accent lighting, but restricted by the 5-storey void above, the solution was to introduce new, low-level structures into the space to support lighting track. The octagonal pergolas housed merchandise both internally and externally. Spotlights mounted on each of the 8 sides at 3.5 metres above floor level delivered the right light to the merchandise within the octagon, while outrigger arms support lighting to the displays around each pergola.

The spotlights throughout the store were compact in size with a clean design, and performance to match.  The gear housing remained in line with the track at all times, so only the spotlight head moved.  This marked a departure from previous Primark lighting schemes, where spotlights mounted via stirrups created a busier aesthetic.  Consequently, Gran Via’s lighting plane was significantly more calm than any in previous Primark scheme.

Luminaires finished in matt white, with Menswear using a matt black, created differentiation between the departments but maintained a holistic lighting scheme.

Feature lighting appeared over several areas, such as escalators, landings, fitting rooms, shoes and all 131 cash desks.  Bespoke geometric luminaires boosted ambient light levels above escalators.  Bespoke ceiling rafts capped escalator landings and integrated lines of light.  Cash desks feature homogeneously lit tubes that provided excellent levels of light on and around the tills, with subtle differences to the end cap colour and finish within different departments.  Over the shoe department, the feature light took centre stage.  A honeycomb array of the lit tubes replaced all the other lighting to create a prominent visual within the space.

The remaining key feature was the glazed cupola, crowning the huge atrium.  Providing light to the area below was challenging, because the original support structure could not bear much additional weight.  To overcome the challenge, adjustable high-powered LED floodlights, placed around the base of the cupola, left the fragile structure unencumbered.  To increase its decorative appeal, we detailed the cupola windows with a diffused LED strip which integrated light into the beautiful dome shape.

The finished effect is a magnificent flagship store with considered and exceptional lighting, enhancing the architecture and products alike.  The store received critical acclaim, with numerous accolades demonstrating its achievement:

2016 WGSN Futures – Best store – Shortlisted

Euroshop Awards 2016  – Retail Design Award – Winner

Retail Design Awards 2016 – Best Overseas UK Store Launch – Winner

Retail Design Awards 2016 – Retail Interior of the Year – Winner

2014/2015 – Boston

From “London to New York” was the design ethos for Primark’s first US store.  Learnings from European stores are embodied into the downton Boston flagship.  Within the established visual identity and aesthetic, LAPD reviewed and adapted the lighting specification to suit the local market and strict regulations.  Moreover, the voltage limit on each length of track required exceptionally careful commissioning of the spotlights.

2016 – Damrak

With Primark continuously striving to create a bigger, bolder and better store, LAPD collaborated with interior designer HMKM on this 7-storey flagship.  Upon opening in December 2016, Damrak amassed recognition in the retail industry, winning the 2017 Retail Week Interior Awards – Best overseas UK Store Launch; and being shortlisted for the 2017 FX International Interior Design Awards – Global Project.

The store mixes tradition with modern statements  In doing so, it creates a vibrant and engaging experience that reflects the unique character of Amsterdam.  The concept was to create an ‘Open House’ store, representing the many different levels and style of a Dutch canal house.

Having designed many iterations of the current lighting concept with improvements and adjustments to suit each flagship store, Damrak would be the first all-LED scheme, excluding two feature elements.

Taking inspiration from Gran Via, we used a compact fixed-base track spot, with aligned gear housing, throughout.  A key difference within this concept was the use of the same specification of spotlight on the main sales floor and the perimeters.  With a consistent size and performance, it ensured maximum flexibility to suit the ever-changing shop fit layout.  In order to maintain a brighter perimeter, we reduced the spacing of fittings.  This increased the number of accent points, which provided additional coverage to the vertical surfaces.

Different interior textures and finishes across each floor express the Open House concept.  Accordingly, the light fixtures had sympathetic finishes to merge seamlessly into the environment.

2016 – Aqua Super Light

With Primark’s continuous development of flagship stores, standard high street outfits began to reap the benefits as refined concepts filtered down.

As a new initiative, Primark tasked LAPD to investigate ‘the future use of lay-in-grid ceilings and a full LED lighting system’.  The objectives were simple: create a standard store identity with characteristics from a flagship, while ensuring energy, cost and scalability were at the forefront for roll-out across the estate.

High street stores were far and beyond from their flagship counterparts, they lacked the creative visual merchandise and the dynamic environment from the dramatic accent lighting.  The stores had dated aesthetics dated and featured a consistent blanket coverage of 4000K colour temperature 36W T8 fluorescent, in 600/1200 lay-in-grid fixtures.  These usually appeared in offices, and less so in a fast-paced fashion retail environment.  Walkways had no definition, no architectural demarcation and no change in lighting approach.  The perimeters maintained the use of an expensive plasterboard bulkhead.

To address these issues, LAPD developed 3 distinct concepts demonstrating the potential of each, with the chosen route entering further development for store trials.

Following the basic principles from previous flagships, LAPD aimed to create a more defined and varied lit environment.  The main sales floor lighting used a 3000K, 1200×600 modular fitting that incorporated an array of deep recessed, low glare ‘downlights’.  The LED modules provided greater light output than previous fluorescents but less visual distraction due to the excellent optical control.  Fittings with higher efficiencies and outputs meant that spacings could be stretched a little further to create slight undulations in the lit environment.  The new aesthetic was less cluttered, creating a cleaner ceiling line with an ‘accent-esque’ feel.

We reduced lighting above the walkways, as a way to increase sales floor contrast.  Horizontal, low profile LED lines of light sailed above.  In the absence of architectural rafts, this clearly depicted the walkways to aid customer navigation.  Pairs of adjustable gimbals set between the ladder of LED lines provided crucial accent lighting to the edges of the shop floor.

For the perimeters, the plasterboard bulkheads along with the 70W metal halides were removed and the lay-in-grid ceiling remained short of the store boundary.  Dedicated track and 50W LED spotlights, tucked up above the ceiling line, allowed for a unobscured view to the accented merchandise.

With these select changes in the lighting approach and the careful selection of LED luminaries, we achieved greater theatre and contrast as part of a dramatic aesthetic overhaul.  The average lighting levels remained at 1000 lx, while vertical illuminance along the walkways and perimeters increased.  The trialled LED scheme benefited from significant energy savings, reducing from 25.6W/m2 to 13.3W/m2, which created knock-on cost savings.

2016 – US / EU specification

Reviewing US lighting specification to ensure the EU performance specification is matched.

2016/2018 – Birmingham

Hailed as Primark’s store of the future, as well as their largest UK store.