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The Ultimate Guide to Retail Lighting

The Importance of Retail Lighting

In the world of retail, where the competition is fierce and first impressions are crucial, the power of effective lighting cannot be overstated. At Prolight Design, we’ve had the privilege of working with some of the world’s leading retailers, including Marks and Spencer, JD Sports, River Island, and Lush.

river island trafford

Creating Atmosphere

In the realm of retail, the shopping experience is more than just a transaction—it’s an emotional journey. Lighting plays a pivotal role in shaping this journey by influencing the ambiance of a space. Think about the warm and inviting glow that welcomes customers as they enter a high-end boutique or the bright, energetic lighting that complements a sports apparel store. The choice of lighting can evoke emotions, guide customer behaviour, and ultimately drive sales.

As experts in the field, we understand that the right lighting can transform a mundane shopping trip into a memorable experience. It’s not just about illuminating products; it’s about crafting an atmosphere that resonates with your brand and connects with your customers on a deeper level.

Branding Through Light

Your brand is more than just a logo; it’s an identity that should permeate every aspect of your retail space. Lighting is a powerful tool for reinforcing your brand image. In our collaborations with leading retailers, we’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative effect of strategic lighting on brand perception. The right lighting not only showcases your products but also communicates your brand values, creating a cohesive and memorable brand experience for your customers.

Types of Lighting

Natural vs. Artificial Lighting

The debate between natural and artificial lighting in retail spaces is a nuanced one. Natural light brings the outdoors in, creating a sense of openness and a connection to the environment. In contrast, artificial lighting offers control over intensity, colour, and direction, allowing for a more tailored and consistent atmosphere. Consider the advantages of natural light for spaces like clothing boutiques, where accurate colour representation is essential. Large, strategically placed windows can flood the space with natural sunlight, enhancing the vibrancy of fabrics and enticing customers. On the other hand, artificial lighting becomes indispensable in settings where daylight is limited, ensuring a consistent and appealing environment throughout the day.

Ambient, Task, and Accent Lighting

Understanding the purpose of different types of lighting is fundamental to crafting a harmonious retail environment. Ambient lighting sets the overall mood of the space, providing general illumination. In a retail setting, it’s the foundation upon which other lighting elements are built. Task lighting, as the name suggests, is focused on specific activities. This could include highlighting a reading area in a bookstore or illuminating the checkout counter for optimal visibility. Task lighting enhances functionality and directs attention to key areas within your store. Accent lighting adds drama and visual interest. It’s the spotlight that draws attention to specific products or architectural features. Picture a high-end jewellery store where each diamond sparkles under carefully directed accent lighting. This technique not only highlights the merchandise but also creates a sense of luxury and exclusivity. As we’ve learned from our collaborations with top retailers, a well-thought-out combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting can transform a space, guiding customers seamlessly through the shopping experience.

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Retail Lighting Techniques

Layered Lighting
One of the key principles in retail lighting design is the art of layering. Similar to how a well-composed painting has layers that contribute to its depth, a well-lit retail space combines various layers of lighting to create a visually appealing and dynamic environment.

General Illumination (Ambient Lighting): Where appropriate a base layer of ambient lighting that provides a background lighting level to the retail space should be considered. The illumination of the perimeter walls that define the store boundaries should be given specific attention as vertical surfaces are key to defining a space and are a key part of what the customer sees when they explore the store and helps ensure a comfortable and inviting atmosphere for customers to explore. Where daylight is limited elements such as stretched ceilings can also be integrated into the design to provide an impactful daylight element to the ambient lighting layer.

Task Lighting for Functionality: Layer task lighting to highlight specific areas where customers engage in activities, such as product demonstrations, reading areas, or fitting rooms. This enhances the functionality and aids customers in their decision-making process.

Accent Lighting for Emphasis: The final layer involves accent lighting, strategically placed to draw attention to focal points. Whether it’s a featured product display, a special promotion, or the store’s unique architecture, accent lighting adds a touch of drama and guides the customer’s gaze.

By incorporating these layers, you create a dynamic interplay of light and shadow that enhances the overall aesthetic and serves practical purposes within your retail space.

Highlighting Merchandise: In the world of retail, the way you illuminate your merchandise can make or break a sale. The goal is to showcase products in their best light- literally. This will often require a coordinated approach with the design of the retail display and careful selection of the lighting used which can range from directional accent lighting to localised concealed light sources such as undershelf lighting.

Guiding by Light: The function of light and lighting design can also extend to guiding the customer journey. Not only can light be a key tool to highlight specific departments or areas within the retail space, it can also be used to help customers navigate the store. Consideration of the type of lighting, intensity and colour temperature can all contribute to the overall lighting characteristics that differentiate areas or departments, whilst the design of the lighting within key circulation spaces and walkways can enable customers to navigate the space and optimise their experience intuitively.

Colour Temperature: Pay attention to the colour temperature of your lighting. Warmer tones can create a cosy atmosphere, while cooler tones may enhance the visibility of certain products, especially in tech or fashion retail.

Avoiding Glare: Selecting low-glare lighting products is key to ensuring the visual comfort of customers. The lighting design should aim to reduce glare on reflective surfaces such as screens, polished countertops or glass. Good glare management ensures the customer can see the store and products clearly without distraction.

Influencing Buying Decisions: Lighting can not only influence buying decisions in the sales area but can also play a big part in the experience and decisions made in changing rooms. Changing room lighting is arguably one of the most important elements of fashion retail lighting. The changing room is often the crunch time in a customer journey where the decision “to buy” or “not to buy” is made. The consideration of the colour palette, lighting solution and colour temperature can significantly affect how the customer perceives themselves and the product, and getting it right can significantly improve the conversion rate. Learn more here about changing room lighting.

Our experience with renowned retailers underscores the importance of a well-executed lighting strategy in driving customer engagement and influencing purchasing decisions.


Pick The Right Products

marks and spencer leeds


Tracklights are a staple for many applications, enabling you to direct the luminaires specifically where you need it the most.


A harmony of functionality and aesthetics, exclusive to Prolight Design. Creativity knows no bounds; continuous lines, fixed lengths and shapes are all possible. Our full Bespoke service allows the complete configuration of the Tron system including the size, colour finish and more complex lighting solutions such as RGBW and Casambi Control.

Channel Extrusions

LED tape and channel provides a contemporary and minimalist lighting solution. With the added flexibility of getting creative with colour, allowing you to further enhance the atmosphere and echo your branding through the lighting. In addition, they can be utilised to add depth and accents to wall mounted merchandise displays.


Add character and highlight focal points through the use of decorative pendants.

LED Lighting Upgrade

jd sports stratford

LED Retrofits

LED Retrofits can take a number of forms ranging from simple 1 for 1 replacement to a more extensive redesign. In addition to LED replacement of conventional lighting, the latest technical and efficiency development has been such that paybacks can even be attractive in the replacement of early generation LED installations. Learn more about our Retrofit Service here.

river island press office lighting

LED Lighting Upgrade

The advent of LED lighting has been a game-changer. Not only is LED lighting energy-efficient and durable, but offers superior lighting quality. LED lighting upgrades can provide an enhanced lighting solution and the opportunity to improve the customer environment and they are also generally self-funding with the payback generated through substantial energy saving combined with a reduction in ongoing maintenance.

Case Studies

Explore more case studies here, illustrating firsthand how our innovative lighting solutions have transformed retail spaces.

marks and spencer leeds

Marks & Spencer | Leeds White Rose

All lighting products were carefully selected and specified to deliver class-leading performance and efficiency. Class leading LED efficiency is key to energy and carbon reduction and is central to Prolight Design solutions. High efficiency is critical to our work with clients like M&S and their Plan A and Net Zero objectives.

size leeds

size? | Leeds

The Tron Deep Oval Pendant was debuted at this store, to make a statement and create a focal point. Echoing the store design which featured brushed aluminium accents. Tron is designed, manufactured, and assembled in Britain.

Let's Work Together

With over 35 years in the industry, we have a wealth of experience from multi-national rollouts to independent boutiques.

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