Let There Be Light: Retail Lighting Designs to Encourage Sales

Let There Be Light: Retail Lighting Designs to Encourage Sales

Retail lighting design | Shopify Retail blog

When setting up your retail store, there are a lot of questions to answer: how to best display your products, where certain products should go, how the general layout of your store should look, and much more.

But what about lighting design? While lighting may be an afterthought for many retailers who are just starting out, retail lighting can provide much more than simple ambiance. This basic utility can also impact your sales and customer experience.

A recent study from Lux suggests that in-store lighting can actually help guide customers through your store, and increase the average spend per customer: “Zumtobel claims a fashion retailer in Germany saw its sales go up by around 12% compared to another local store, after it installed a new lighting scheme specially designed to appeal to the personality profile of its target customers.”

In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” —Aaron Rose, photographer

 So, how can you leverage your lighting design to bolster your bottom line? Let’s take a look at how you can create a lighting strategy that will work for your store and your products. 

FURTHER READING: If you’re looking for more in-store strategies to boost sales, check out our guide to visual merchandising.

Welcoming Customers: How to Create an Atmosphere

Physical aspects of your store create the overall feel of your retail experience. Light is one of the ways that retailers can create a pleasant atmosphere for their customers. How people feel when they enter your store can affect their mood, as well as how they perceive your brand and products.

In the article 6 ways to maximize your LED lighting strategy, Topco states that “chosen lighting can have a significant emotional impact, directing shoppers to key merchandise and hugely affecting how they perceive your overall business.”

To decide what kind of atmosphere you want your lighting to create, think about how you want customers to feel when they walk in your store. Warm, soft lighting can make people feel relaxed and comfortable, while brighter lighting helps customers see products more clearly, such as in the Louis Vuitton flagship store in London: Retail lighting design, Louis Vuitton | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Design Curial

As in the above example, the lighting is dimmer in the walkways and the products are highlighted with bright spotlights. This lighting strategy places a visual emphasis on LV’s iconic products and draws customers immediately to shelves. 

FURTHER READING: Learn how retailers encourage sales with sight, smell and sound.

Step 1: Finding Your Fixtures

One way to create an atmosphere with your lighting strategy is through the light fixtures that you use. Select vintage fixtures, chandeliers, or dome lighting to create a more intimate feel, versus recess, track lighting, or suspended fixtures to help create more of a professional atmosphere.

Retail lighting design, lighting fixture types | Shopify Retail blogPhoto credit: Types of Lighting Fixtures for Retail Stores

Break up your space with a mixture of light fixtures in different parts of your store, like the entrance versus the changing rooms. Regardless of the fixtures you choose, match your lighting strategy to your brand identity and product offerings.

A great example of using lighting design to both create an atmosphere and reflect your branding is The Whisky Shop’s low lighting and neon wings:

Retail lighting design, The Whisky Shop | Shopify Retail blog Image Credit: Design Curial

Step 2: Choose a Temperature

One of the ways that you can create an inviting atmosphere in your store is by using a warm or cool temperature of lighting — there are benefits to both color schemes. Lux states that “Cool color temperatures such as cool white make areas appear more spacious whereas warm color temperatures create an impression of smallness and familiarity.”

So, if you have a small store that you’re trying to make feel larger, consider using cool lighting. Or, if you’re trying to invoke a sense of familiarity or nostalgia in your store then you’ll want to use warmer-toned lighting.

Types of Retail Lighting

There are several different types of retail lighting, including:

  • Ambient lighting: This refers to your store’s overall lighting concept. Ambient lighting creates the overall atmosphere in your store and has the largest impact. For example, if you had a large light fixture in the center of your store, this would create the ambient lighting in the space.
  • Accent lighting: This “spotlight” type lighting allows storefronts to draw attention to a few products. In the Louis Vuitton example above, the store uses accent lighting to highlight its luxury handbags and accessories. This technique is common in luxury stores.
  • High-activity lighting: Traditional lighting concepts often leave stores with dark corners and shadowy spots. But high-activity lighting focuses on covering the entire space with bright lights to eliminate the possibility that customers will miss any of your products.

Why Bulbs Matter: LED versus Florescent

Traditionally, brick-and-mortar locations have relied heavily on florescent lights for their stores, but recently many retailers have switched to LED lighting. LED lighting is a cost-effective, energy efficient option for your retail store. In the article Use Lighting to Make Your Retail Products Shine, proprietors from lighting store Premier Lighting state that: “While any type of lighting is useful, store owners are particularly seeing measurable benefits from using LED lights. These types of lights are bright, small, and illuminate targeted areas — all traits you need in lights intended for retail spaces.” 

So, how should you use LED lighting in your store? In the Entrepreneur article Lighting Up Your Store — and Your Sales they found that “even the best LED lights might not be the right choice for your store, says Eric Strandberg, senior lighting specialist for Seattle-based Lighting Design Lab, an education, training and consulting organization. Other options like linear fluorescent lights, for example, might be better for general lighting, while LED bulbs would be more appropriate for accent lights.”

You may need to try different types of lights in your store to see what best suits the environment that you’ve created, as well as what shows off your products in the best light. Walk through your competitor's’ stores and see how they’re lighting their products and/or test different lighting strategies in your own store to see what shows your products in the best light. Also, don’t be tied to only one type of light — many retail stores mix and match different types of lighting throughout the store to get the best of both worlds.

Retail lighting design | Shopify Retail blog Photo Credit: Zen Merchandiser

Create a Visual Hierarchy: The Benefits of Contrast

Lux suggests “Retail lighting should be high contrast, making perception easier and heightening levels of attention.” By using multiple sources of light in your retail store, you can create contrast around your products — drawing the attention of your customers towards the shelves and making it easier to see the details of the individual products.

Try creating shadows around displays and use spotlighting to highlight products on important shelves. Use strategically placed lights to point at where you want customers’ eyes to go.

 Don’t forget about lighting your store windows in a way that entices customers to enter your store: “In shop windows, use pinpoint accenting to emphasize perceived contrasts. In the evening and when there is little daylight, even low illuminance levels are sufficient.” High contrast in window displays is a great way to catch the eyes of passersby.

Product-Focused Lighting Design: The Pros of Backlighting

Not every product and display is creating equally — you can’t highlight every area of the store with contrast lighting because then there wouldn’t actually be any contrast. By using strong contrast sparingly, you can focus on drawing your customers to sales areas, new items, or high-ticket products.

For wide displays where you want to highlight a large area, instead of pinpointing a single product, try backlighting your displays. Softer backlighting is particularly effective at drawing attention to shelves that are lower to the ground and might otherwise be overlooked.

Retail lighting design, backlighting | Shopify Retail blog Photo Credit: Premier Lighting

Backlighting also works to keep customers lingering at the shelves longer as they navigate through the items on each shelf. Additionally, backlighting can be used to achieve a softer, more intimate environment, as the lack of sharp contrast is more appealing to the eye: “Wide-area backlighting of shelves produces a more attractive effect than accent lighting only.”

Moving Forward With Retail Lighting Design

Lighting is part of a larger in-store strategy for your retail business and your brand. Now you better understand that the right lighting can help boost sales and create a great customer experience for your store.

Have you tried a lighting strategy that has helped contribute to an increase in sales for your retail business? If so, tell us about it in the comments.

Photo of Lauren Ufford

About the Author

Lauren Ufford is a writer and editor with expertise in retail, ecommerce, and tech. Originally from the West Coast, Lauren spends her free time exploring Toronto with her two comically large dogs.

Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify