Five Lighting Tips Every Retailer Should Know

By Lyn M. Falk, Retailworks, Inc.

Lighting is the most important design element in a retail environment.

If the store is not illuminated properly, the store will never look its best. And if you recently spent a lot of money renovating a store, then you sure want to make sure you’re making the most out of that renovation with proper lighting.

Here are five things to keep in mind when lighting your store:

  1. Multiple Lighting Levels. Every retail environment should have three levels of lighting:
    • Overall ambient light, generally provided by overhead fluorescents or LEDs;
    • Accent lights to illuminate focal points like displays, end caps and signage, and generally provided by spot- or floodlights on tracks. This light should be three times brighter than the surrounding ambient light;
    • Decorative light fixtures to provide a fun, visual punch, including floor and table lamps, chandeliers, patio lights, and fun pendant lights over a counter.
  2. Color Rendering Index (CRI). Always select bulbs that are 85 or higher (on the 0-100 index) so products are shown in their truest color.
  3. Color Temperature. Look for a 3,500K (Kelvin) bulb for your ambient light. If you’re looking for a bright, sparkling white light to highlight appliances, go for 4,000+K, and if you need something to create a more inviting living room-type atmosphere, select 2,700K bulbs.
  4. Lumens. Your light needs to provide “punch,” so look for high lumen output bulbs. Especially if you have high ceilings, you’re going to want bulbs that provide 2,500+ lumens. And each track head should be over 1,000 lumens. One of the biggest problems with retail lighting is an underlit store.
  5. Natural Light. It’s important to utilize natural light whenever possible, as people feel better, and products look best under natural light. Skylights are great additions to many retail environments if you don’t have a lot of windows. And if you do have windows, keep in mind east-, south- and west-facing windows can bring in strong sunlight, which can fade merchandise and heat up spaces.

    Window blinds may be needed, or a tinted film added to the glass to control the sun. If you do apply a tinted film be sure not to go too dark, as this can make your store look like it is closed, and then a neon “Open” sign will be needed.  

Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to a brighter future. Never underestimate the power of a well-illuminated environment!

Lyn M. Falk is owner/president of Retailworks, Inc., an award-winning design, branding and display consultancy. A registered interior designer, retail consultant, BrandSource guest speaker, and contributor to AVB’s showroom Makeover Manual, Falk has devoted over 36 years to helping retailers build healthy, purposeful and productive spaces that move hearts, minds and merchandise. Contact Lyn at

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