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Spencer basks in retail Glow

The last thing a retailer wants is a dark store. But for Glow, a one-year-old retail concept from Spencer Gifts, Egg Harbor Township, N.J., darkness is precisely what the doctor ordered. The store retails merchandise that glows in the dark, either on its own or under black light.

"Our products don't show up in ordinary light -- the store wouldn't have the same impact if it wasn't dark," explains Doug Orloff, co-creator of Glow. "We wanted a nightclub-like atmosphere, with loud music, lights going on and off, and a lot of product that's kinetic or creates an optical illusion. We wanted this really intense, exciting place."

To create the appropriate hyperenergetic effect, Orloff and partner Tim Clare turned to Los Angeles-based Wildfire Inc., which created the lighting for Caesar's Magical Empire at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and Holoworld, a chain of family entertainment centers. Orloff says Glow needed more than the basic black-light tubes and bulbs; Wildfire's "over the top" work produced the kind of theatrical effects he and Clare wanted.

According to Wildfire chief executive officer Larry Friedman, the firm's 400W and 250W long throw fixtures give off almost pure ultraviolet energy, eliminating the mostly blue light of regular fluorescent tubes and allowing true colors to show. The fixture's engineering, he notes, more than doubles the standard output of bulbs, with a 40W bulb outputting nearly 90W of power. In addition to lighting for Glow, Wildfire created fluorescent carpet (with glowing geometric shapes), starlight wallpaper and various other features.

Spencer's vice president of marketing Dennis Jarvis estimates electricity and fixture costs run about 20 percent higher than in most similar-size stores, but, because the lighting plays such an important role, the extra expense is unavoidable, he says. There are no unusual installation costs, however, because Wildfire fixtures use standard 120V AC outlets.

The store's merchandise ranges from such routine glow-in-the-dark items as posters, press-on stars, toy wands, Halloween makeup and phosphorescent minerals to more unlikely fluorescent products such as inflatable furniture, wallpaper, candlesticks, picture frames and clothing.

A 1,100 sq. ft. location at Universal CityWalk in Burbank, Calif., is Glow's only location, and Orloff reports that customers line up to get in most nights and weekends. Because of the store's success, a second store is planned for Universal Studios in Orlando. Orloff expects a wider store rollout, primarily in entertainment- or tourist-oriented complexes and large regional malls, to follow.

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