Use lighting to enhance your outdoor living products
by Linda Cahan
Outdoor living areas are the new décor frontier. They are a great opportunity for your stores to offer new shopping opportunities and make your showrooms shine.
In a previous column, I talked about how to create an outdoor living area in your showroom using a photo wall mural and a wall that is shingled to look like the outside of a home. To complete this look and really wow your customers, there are few more steps that could increase sales and repeat business.
Add specialty lights around and over your outdoor living display. These lights will create a glow that adds to the energy, beauty and perceived value of the merchandise. As you may have return customers for chemicals, changing out the lights every month will change the look and feel of the entire area — even with the same merchandise. Below are some ideas you can implement fairly easily right away to bring life and attention to your outdoor living areas.
Add a Pergola
Build a wood pergola over the entire area, and hang lights from it. Suspend it from the ceiling if you prefer to use fake wood beams. If dark wood isn’t part of the image of your outdoor living area, paint it white; it will feel more elegant. A 10 by 10 by 10 pergola is an excellent proportion for a small display area.
Install Lights You Can Sell
Create a lighting mood and look you can sell to your customers. It can change monthly during the selling seasons. Start off with flameless candles flickering on as many surfaces as possible. Purchase them wholesale for resale purposes, and get them with remotes. Turn them on during busy sales times or when someone comes through the doors. Buy them in different sizes, but stick with the same shapes and colors. Consistency will look better in your outdoor living room and encourage your customers to purchase more than one to recreate the look they see in your showroom. Make sure you stock the candles within 10 feet of this display so they are easy to find.
Switch It Up Regularly
Remove a lot of the candles, just leaving groupings on a few tables, on the side of a spa unit and on the outdoor kitchen counter if you have one. Hang warm white festival LED lights across the pergola. If you have a 10-by-10 area to cover, use a 100-foot strand and drape it back and forth across the width or length of the pergola, over the spa unit or seating area. Search for 100-foot white C9 string lights with smooth LED G40 warm white bulbs.
Another great option is using LED warm white, net mesh fairy string lights designed to go over bushes at Christmas. Hung carefully from the ceiling, you can create a unique look that throws a lot of soft light onto your living area. Twinkling ones can work well if they come with twinkle options. Flashing lights will be quickly annoying.
Create a Chandelier Focal Area
Keep the festival lights up, and add a chandelier that can work outdoors. Center it over a table or the entire display area. Use your best judgment for its placement. Please choose an UL-rated chandelier approved for outdoor use. Even in your protected store area, the fixture could be exposed to wind, dust and moisture. You can buy a chandelier retail, or find a company you’d like to work with and carry its outdoor, UL-approved chandeliers. You just need to hang one to get the idea across. Take a cue from lighting stores; add a (nice-looking) smaller price tag off the hanging light so customers understand it’s for sale. Once again, stock the lights nearby.
Consider adding a fan if you’ve built a real wood overhang or pergola. If it’s fake wood, hang the fan securely from the ceiling and have it come through the overhead decorative element. Fans are ideal for outdoor living areas, and there are hundreds of styles available. The outdoor fan must be wet-rated to survive a variety of weather conditions. Some come with a light as well, which will add a lot to the area.
Improve Your Wet-Test Area
Remove the festival lights and either use them over your filled demo spa to add romance, or carefully dust them and pack them away for a few months in a sturdy, closed box. Add freestanding electric lanterns or table lamps around the outdoor living area. Once again, consider sourcing them so you can sell them. When customers love something, it’s nice to let them have instant gratification, rather than having to wait for a delivery. If you prefer not to be in that business, Target has some great outdoor table lamps that would do the trick and look far better than what they cost.
Dress Up the Umbrellas
Umbrella lights can make all the difference in your showroom. They will give a glow to darker areas as well as create a cozy seating space. Umbrella lights are being sold online and are easy to find. If you put your name behind a brand and sell them in your store, customers who trust you will trust your opinion — and there’s no shipping charge for them. Once again, your customers get instant gratification and perhaps advice on how to install them from one of your sales staff. If you don’t want to sell them, install them under your open umbrellas to add drama, light and delight to your selling floor.
The Floor Matters, Too
If you don’t have a different flooring material under your outdoor living area, consider adding either a Pergo-like wood, an outdoor carpet or a layer of bricks or paving stones. Waterproof PVC core wood-look flooring can work well in this area and, as it’s very thin (1/4-inch), customers are less likely to trip over it. Check out micro-beveled edged boards as they are very forgiving and can install easily over other flat flooring. Plus, you can add a simple beveled edge around the perimeter to further cut down on any possibility of someone tripping. There are some beautiful wood-look options that will enhance your merchandise. Or, to quickly create a display area, use an indoor/outdoor polypropylene decorative rug to tie the area together beautifully. Use colors from the rug in your decorative pillows or flowers. Bricks or paving stones are more labor intensive, expensive and are more of a tripping hazard. But, they are gorgeous and, like the wood floor or carpet, can be reused over and over in the store or at home.
Adding lighting to your outdoor living area will take your store to another level of beauty. Even if the rest of your showroom has overhead fluorescent lights, a bunch of spas on the floor and chemicals on fixtures, one super looking area will create a lasting positive impression with your customers. They will appreciate your efforts to wow them.
Linda Cahan is an internationally known expert in visual merchandising strategy and store design. She gives seminars, workshops, trains and consults for chain stores and independent retailers. Along with SpaRetailer, she writes for several other retail magazines, and is the author of two books and seven corporate visual standards manuals. Cahan lives in West Linn, Oregon. lindacahan.com