Retail lighting: 6 questions to ask at the start of a project

July 4, 2022

Retail lighting: 6 questions to ask at the start of a project

Can good retail lighting increase sales? The intensity, positioning, colour and tone of retail lighting can certainly have an impact on customer experience – and, as a result, your client’s retail sales. Retailers have long used lighting as part of the overall experience they offer to customers, with stores using lighting to create a look and feel that’s unique to their brand (such as Hollister’s low-profile lighting, or Apple stores’ dynamic, bright white illumination). Yet as energy efficiency becomes an ever-increasing priority for retailers (thanks to both regulations and spiralling utility costs) lighting designers and installers are faced with a more complex remit when it comes to delivering perfect lighting in retail.

Here, we share some of the most important questions to ask at the start of any retail lighting project – as well as the results of a leading charity’s recent retail lighting project.

What products are on display?

The type of product on display should always influence your lighting design. Fresh food, for instance, will look better under a different light colour profile to, say, designer handbags. Likewise, larger, standalone products like cars, household items or technology are going to need a very different lighting setup to smaller products that are stacked in display cases and on shelves, like books or stationery. Interestingly, there are psychological reasons that certain colour and tone can impact sales of particular products – for instance, a study found that blue tinged light can make food less appealing, or that overhead lighting in fitting rooms can negatively impact shoppers. However, creating the right lighting design for the product is really about common sense, and having the right conversations with the client about product and purpose at the start of the project.


What mood are you trying to create?

Nothing sets the mood like lighting, and it’s important to establish this with the client right at the start of the project. Do they want to create a relaxed browsing environment, where people feel they can take their time (particularly important for high-value retail items)? Or do they want people to feel energised and make their way through the store quickly? This should have a big influence on the colour and tone of the lights that you choose.

Does the design make the space easy to navigate?


The right lighting design can make a retail environment easier to navigate. You can draw attention to key facilities, such as the checkout or fitting room entrance. You can use light to guide foot traffic around the store, creating clear walkways either with ground level lights or well-placed overheads. Or you can highlight specific areas or zones: for instance, creating a different light profile in a luxury goods section, or emphasizing a key customer ‘destination’ such as a core product selection or special offer display.

Can you improve energy efficiency?


As we’ve all heard, energy prices are rising – and everyone is feeling the impact, retailers included. How can you improve your installation’s energy efficiency without impacting on the customer experience? Switching to high quality, reliable LEDs (if the client hasn’t already) is the first step, but there are other measures, such as introducing automations and sensors. These can be creatively deployed in a retail environment, particularly in larger stores: rather than a simple on/off function, you could enhance illumination when a display is approached (either by dimming or via a secondary light source), or have certain lights activate when natural lighting starts to ebb. Done well, this can optimise the experience for the customer as well as saving on energy costs, but it needs careful planning. Get this element wrong, and you risk creating dark spots that fail to attract footfall. Another option is to simply give staff greater control of the lighting, either with multiple dimming or switch points or app-based lighting controls.

Is the lighting design flexible?

There are some stores that display only one type of product, in the same shelving/display layout, all year round: bookshops, car dealerships, etc. Yet others – such as fashion, homeware and department stores – may need a more flexible approach, allowing for seasonal changes, shifting display areas and even the occasional full floor-plan renovation. For these retail premises, a full lighting refurbishment for every new product display isn’t going to be practical, not to mention cost-effective. Consider installing directional lights that are easy to move, and choosing lighting options that allow the client to easily switch between colours and tones (such as the Stellar 3CCT LED downlight).

Is emergency lighting taken care of?

Unlike other ‘nice to have’ lighting additions, emergency lighting is a legal requirement. If your client has already had emergency lighting installed, be careful to maintain it within your design. If they haven’t, make sure you’ve taken into account the key emergency lighting specifications, including exit signage and escape routes.

Case study: Retail lighting for a leading UK charity

The Project: This well-known charity needed an efficient, attractive lighting design for one of their brand-new retail outlets.

The Brief: The charity requested an average light level of 750 lux, with emergency lighting that could be adapted to suit the ever-changing layout, while ensuring a safe route of escape. As a retail premise, they needed lighting that could showcase a variety of products while creating an upbeat experience for shoppers. Red Arrow worked with the charity to provide a solution.

The Products: Red Arrow supplied products from their COMHB range of high bays, along with LF292E twinspots for emergency lighting and EBMLED exit boxes to highlight the final exits.

The Results: Based on the success of the installation, Red Arrow have since completed projects for six more of the charity’s stores across the UK.

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