Come to the Light
I have to try to answer Radley's question for economists. I forwarded his message to my colleagues who offered these answers. The first, which I think is correct, was this:
If sold under best lighting, then when the customer got it home and saw the item under less than ideal lighting they might be inclined to return it. Dealing with returns can be costly. If sold under harsh light, when you get the item home, it can only look better. Fewer returns.A variation of Radley's costs story was offered by several: In stores like WalMart, you're just there to buy, one said; another offered that"I think the lighting and/or the setting between a regular department store and a D&G or an Armani flagship can be quite different. If lighting matters, I think those designer store may know better." Or, suggested another, one is shopping for fit in the stores with the flourescent lighting. But I see it in some stores that say they are selling style (Marshall Fields or J.C. Penney's, to think of two here in town.)
And my wife, a non-economist, says simply,"To wreak such havoc with self-image that people will make a purchase just to feel better." Oh no, dear, those look marvelous on you...
Of course, none of these suggestions would probably help these people.