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retail lighting design

#12 – Retail Lighting Design for Beginners

Retail Lighting Design for Beginners


Retail lighting design is made not only to make your store look better but also to spur higher sales. It can affect customers’ first impressions by enticing their curiosity to enter the shop and explore what you have to offer. The mood you set also promotes the brand image you want people to remember your business for.


When planning for your retail lighting design, you can’t just put in whatever you think is gorgeous or affordable. Here’s a rundown of what your retail lighting design must accomplish:

  • Reflect brand image and develop a lasting impression.
  • Enhance the presentation of your store and merchandise.
  • Make it comfortable for both customers and employees to enter or work in the space.
  • Attract customers and create a pleasing experience.
  • Save on costs without sacrificing functionality and aesthetics.


There are countless lighting techniques and fixture designs that can be applied in your store and this can be confusing, especially for a beginner. Understanding the purpose of retail lighting design will help you filter out the best kind of lighting needed for your business.



Although you see different lighting designs, they can be applied using the following techniques to provide the desired effect and attain specific purposes.


1) Accent lighting

Accent lighting is used to highlight important areas or items inside the store. The contrast it creates presents a dramatic effect that makes the object on focus pop out and draw customer attention. It’s the solution often used to give importance to space or item by illuminating it beyond the ambient light inside the store.

This type of retail lighting design can be installed on windows, or walls, depending on where the object you want to highlight is positioned.

To avoid over-illuminating the store or defeating the purpose of accent lighting, choose only 2 to 3 areas to highlight. New, seasonal, and discounted items are often the best merchandise to put under the spotlight.

The best use of accent lighting is on the window display, so make sure you invite an expert like Baseline Lighting Design Studio to create a wall that will surely catch attention.


2) Task lighting

This is the type of retail lighting placed for a specific purpose. More than just being decorative, it’s designed to illuminate an area to make it easier for anyone to do specific tasks.

You’ll often see this kind of retail lighting design in dressing rooms, checkout counters, and service desks. Task lighting is necessary for kitchens, stockrooms, and back offices to make employees work more effectively. You can also mix task lighting with ambient lighting to make it more convenient for customers to read product tags and examine the packaging.


3) Ambient lighting

This is the main light source that sets the mood of your store. It helps create the impression you intend to present as a brand. Ambient lighting is responsible for making customers feel safe and comfortable in entering your retail space.

As a general light source, it should provide the right amount of light to every corner of your space. Make it too dim and customers will have a hard time reading product labels. Make it too bright and customers will feel uncomfortable due to the glare from over-illumination.

Since this is the main source of illumination in your store, this type of retail lighting design will consume the most energy. You can improve the cost-efficiency of the space and comply with many regulatory standards by making sure you don’t exceed consumption to 2.5 watts per square foot.


4) Decorative lighting

As the name states, decorative lighting is made to enhance the aesthetic value of your store while aiding existing task, ambient, and accent lighting systems in place. It can greatly contribute to the brand image, emphasize existing theme and décor, and fill in any gaps that ambient lighting cannot reach.

Eye-catching fixtures like chandeliers, pendant lights, lamps, and track lights are the most common examples of this kind of retail lighting design often seen in stores. It’s usually positioned at eye-level and in plain sight where it can catch the customer’s full vision.

Certain types of retail lighting design don’t apply to all store settings. Supermarkets, convenience stores, and hardware shops don’t need decorative lighting since their purpose is to encourage customers to move around and purchase products. Decorative lighting is more suited to boutiques, apparel stores, and furniture shops which entice customers to linger longer and check every merchandise the business has to offer.

In choosing decorative lighting, make sure you pair it with your current theme and other display elements in your store. You wouldn’t want to place neon lights on an antique shop or a chandelier on a minimalistic shop.


5) Shelf lighting

This type of retail lighting design can be placed under cabinets, inside shelves, under tables, and other surfaces to create a highlighting effect. Checkout counters, display cases, shelves, tables, and wall niches are where you’ll often find this type of lighting.

Shelf lighting shouldn’t generate heat, cast shadows, or create a glare that can affect customer perception or worse damage goods. It should be around 3 times brighter than the ambient lighting to create a highlighting effect without being overbearing.

This type of retail lighting design is best used in jewelry displays and clothing racks to create a subtle and dramatic focus on the merchandise.

Fluorescent strips, LED strips, LED tapes, and puck lights are the usual fixtures use for retail shelf lighting. They’re often discrete and flexible which makes them a good addition for mood lighting.



There are countless retail lighting fixtures available in the market. However, you can categorize them under the following styles.

  • Domes

These are light sources covered by a translucent ceiling dome. The material of the dome isn’t limited to glass, but it’s the best choice for diffusing light. The dome itself isn’t necessarily rounded in shape too, as there are rectangular and elliptical variants available from your favorite supplier.

Ceiling domes can be mounted directly (flush) or indirectly with the help of a short, hidden mechanism that connects the fixture to the ceiling (semi-flush).


  • Recessed lighting

This type of retail lighting design is recessed into the ceiling, making it somehow hidden from plain view. It can be used as either ambient, accent, or task lighting. It can be used to highlight certain areas or products because it produces a focused light beam.


  • Track lighting

Track lights are like small spotlight heads suspended in the ceiling along with some kind of track or bar for horizontal adjustments. Each head can be adjusted in various angles, making track lights an extremely versatile retail lighting solution.

The highly adjustable feature of track lights can be extended further with the use of dimmable bulbs. Whether you want a task, accent, or an overhead lighting, track lights can do them all without any problem.


  • Pendants

Pendants are beautifully designed fixtures suspended directly from the ceiling. They can be used for general or task lighting purposes. Display tables, counters, booths, and bars often use this kind of retail lighting design to add character to the area.

The downside to them is that you need a tall ceiling to accommodate the length of the suspended cable and still create the desired effect.


  • Chandeliers

Chandeliers feature a cluster of lights arranged in a certain fashion to emphasize your store’s interior design through ambient lighting. The bulbs can be positioned upward, downward, or in an angled situation to diffuse the light to the surrounding area.


Retail lighting design is an important aspect of your business as it helps set the mood in your store and enhance your brand image. It has a direct impact on customer experience, including comfortability, safety, and convenience.

Planning, executing, and maintaining your retail lighting design isn’t an easy task. If you don’t want to think about the numerous things to consider for retail lighting, hire an expert in the field like Baseline Lighting Design Studio and let us bring out the best out of your store. Just drop us a message and let’s discuss business.



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