Retail lighting

Well-lit retail outlets attract customers and focus their attention on what you’re selling.

Carefully planned lighting can lead to more sales - it helps establish a store's image, attract customers inside, focus their attention and make products stand out.

How to create a well-lit environment

Colour and finish

The colour and finish you choose has a big impact on your lighting. Aim to:

  • get the highest reflectance possible to complement your fit-out
  • choose wall finishes and furniture that’s light in colour and tone
  • avoid glossy finishes for walls, ceilings and furniture, which can create glare
  • limit saturated and primary colours, which absorb lots of light.

Prevent glare

Glare makes spaces appear darker than they really are and is visually distracting. To avoid it aim to:

  • illuminate ceilings and walls
  • choose wall finishes that are light in colour and tone
  • avoid glossy finishes on walls, ceilings, and furniture
  • use light fittings that don’t create glare.

Maintain your light fittings

If you're not using LED lamps, it’s easy to overlook the importance of relamping light fittings. The light from older technology metal halide lamps becomes more green with age and the output quickly reduces. These fittings should be regularly relamped or replaced with LED lamps.

 Types of light fitting

Types of light

Swap low voltage halogens with LED replacement lamps that last longer, use less energy and produce less heat and UV (which can damage stock).

When you need an uplighting component, choose LED high bays or T5 fluorescent that are designed to project some light towards the ceiling. This will improve customers’ perception of the lighting quality and make the space appear larger than it is.

 Types of light

Measure your light levels

Good colour, contrast and balance between surfaces are important, but light levels shouldn’t be excessive.

How to measure your lighting level

You'll need a good quality lux meter, which can be rented for around $100 per day. There are also a number of smartphone apps that can be freely or cheaply downloaded to get a rough indication of light levels. Light levels should be measured on the vertical surfaces of stock and this is where a high-quality lux meter provides much better data.

Light levels should be measured in the absence of natural light which may mean taking measurements at night depending on glazing and skylighting within your store.

Get the right amount of light

Different retailers need to promote different images to their customers.

Type of storeIdeal level of lighting
Basic retail store 500 to 800 lux ambient lighting 
Mid-range retail store 300 to 500 lux ambient 
750 to 1,000 lux accent 
Top-end retail store  150 to 400 lux ambient 
750 to 1,000 lux accent

Lighting basic retail stores

  • Use fluorescent lights to advertise a 'discount' or 'express lane’ - they’re efficient, last a long time and have good colour rendering.
  • Use light coloured finishes on all wall surfaces to increase overall brightness and reflected light.

Lighting mid-range retail stores

  • Partially conceal ambient light sources to make accent lighting more noticeable.
  • Place accent lights close to your displays.
  • Use exposed or decorative accent lights to attract attention.

Lighting top-end retail stores

  • Use lower light levels for ambient lighting to make more of a contrast with your accent lighting.
  • Use accent lighting to highlight what is most important - use the highest wattage or tightest focus lamps in the most important areas of the store.
  • Use exposed or decorative lights to attract attention to specific displays or areas.

After hours lighting

Leaving front window lights on all night might be good for sales, but it’s a huge waste of energy.

  • Install separate switching so that only the lighting for window displays is left on.
  • Use timers so lights are only on for as long as there is likely to be passing foot traffic.
  • Use LED technology in shop window displays as this uses the least energy.

Get expert advice on lighting

Lighting is a specialist area, so it’s a good idea to talk to a qualified lighting professional. They should be IES accredited (Illumination Engineers Society).

Lighting suppliers - EMANZ website

They’ll assess your specific needs and suggest the most appropriate energy efficient lighting designs and lamp options. Make sure you get a clear cost-benefit analysis of each lighting option. The analysis should include details about the return on your investment and ongoing maintenance costs.