When George Skoutellas – known by many in the industry as ‘Mr SPAR’ – acquired the SUPERSPAR Blackheath in the northern suburbs of Gauteng, he embarked on an ambitious plan to renovate and expand a flailing store.
Skoutellas, owner of SPAR stores in Bedfordview and Sunninghill, turned to a familiar team when upgrading the Blackheath SUPERSPAR, doubling its size and incorporating a TOPS at SPAR liquor store. Tasked with the lighting was Flolite, which played an integral role in the revamp of the successful SUPERSPAR Bedfordview.
“We have worked on more than 100 SPAR stores, and with George we had already worked on two of his other stores, so he is confident working with us; he knows our level of service and the end result. Consequently, we are familiar with retail and the standards expected by SPAR,” says Flolite’s John Dewet.
Initially 250 m2, the store now comprises a ‘fresh’ department, which includes an extended range to the butchery, bakery, deli, gift shop and flower offering, along with a brand new coffee shop, while the new TOPS at SPAR boasts a 100 m2 walk-in beer chiller.
Having been involved in similar stores previously, Dewet says that at the first site meeting they were asked to “do your magic”. He notes, “The client wanted the store to ‘stand out’ from a lighting perspective. Following our previous work on the flagship Bedfordview store three years ago, this project was required to surpass it, so we had to push the envelope that bit further”.
Met with what can be described as a rundown and dingy store, Flolite increased the standard lux levels of 800 in retail aisles to 1100. “This was a little more challenging, but the end result is that the products ‘pop’ from the shelves and, along with the correct colour rendering index, provide a true reflection of their colours.” He says Flolite keeps track of trends in FMCG retail in the States, where thin LED strips are being placed on grocery shelves to further highlight items and studies show that sales can increase by 25% on highlighted products as they stand out for consumers.
Specialised handmade fittings were installed for aesthetic value in the more ostentatious areas of the store. For instance, for the coffee shop area and the home meal replacement (HMR) section, a selection of brass and wire pendants with Edison bulbs add a more homely feel compared to the rest of the store.
Elsewhere, over 150 54 W linear battens were installed in the recesses of the ceiling’s bulkheads, while lighting – although more functional – was also required for the back-of-house receiving and office areas. Despite a large glass shopfront, natural light didn’t play much into the mix as its penetration was less than 6 m into the store; here softer lighting with lower lux levels was used to create a more comfortable working environment for the cashiers. Overall, 170 linear highbays, 150 batten fittings, 80 downlights and over 100 track lights were installed in the two stores.
The TOPS at SPAR store, with its own entrance and cleverly divided from the SUPERSPAR Blackheath by a translucent liquor cabinet which entices customers to visit both entities, follows the same lighting concept as the SPAR store but with a slightly smaller 600 mm x 600 mm light. For the fridges, specially designed luminaires were installed which can operate at -40°C. Externally, Flolite also developed a new parking light product for the parking lot. “We installed a high lumen output, 300 W fitting for the parking lot. Previously, it was not a well-lit area and crimes had occurred there. By increasing the lux levels from the typical 50-70 to 120 lux outside, customers now feel more comfortable parking there in the evenings and using the outdoor ATM,” says Dewet.
“Retail calls for very specific lighting and the new design has seen turnover increase quite dramatically at the store, but it also comes with numerous challenges,” he says. As is often the case, the renovation had to be done while the store remained open for trading. “As such, our noise levels had to be kept to a minimum and there is always an element of danger when working with live power and in close proximity to the general public.” In this situation, lighting suppliers are often asked to provide temporary lighting for other construction services; “Where possible we try and install the final product for this scenario and deal with the aftermath of replacing and cleaning the fittings once everything else is done,” says Dewet.
“I would hazard a guess that around 70-80% of retail stores in South Africa are under lit,” he says, adding that many retailers from the SPAR group have already visited the Blackheath store to see the difference lighting can make. “It is amazing how, when a retail store is under lit, it will gradually start losing customers. People gravitate subconsciously to a better illuminated store where they feel more comfortable. “Retailers should keep the lighting fresh and alive, and let the CRI do the work as it tends to sell the products. Many retailers cut corners when it comes to lighting, and when they don’t get the results, have to redo it properly at further expense,” concludes Dewet.
CLIENT: Superspar Blackheath
LIGHTING SUPPLIER: Flolite: www.flolite.co.za
ENERGY AUDITORS: Infobase Energy
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Jackie Bronkhorst
PHOTOGRAPHER: Pierre Bassani