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Lighting a shop is simple, right? Stick some lights in the ceiling and you’re done. Wrong, actually. There’s so much you can do with lighting to create a unique look that will draw in customers and leave a lasting impression on them.

The importance of presentation

Design and aesthetics are so important for both getting customers in the door and keeping them there long enough to buy something. Mary Portas’ groundbreaking book, Windows: The Art of Retail Display highlights just what an impact aesthetics can have on customer interactions with your store. Think of Apple Stores; you’ve got a clear image in your head. That bright, clean, white interior draws people in and lighting plays an enormous part in this.

Ambient lighting: match it your band

This is the main lighting that will be in your store, so it’s essential you get it spot on. It provides the wash of light that is the biggest influence on the overall feel and mood of your store. This light is generally going to come from ceiling fixtures, of which there are so many different ones to choose from.

The strength of lighting is completely under your control (provided customers can actually see where they’re going), so you should match it to the mood you’re after. For example, if you run antiques store, then a softer touch is probably going to go further. Soft, more yellow lighting reminds us of the past, before LEDs and energy efficient lighting. Go for warmer lighting to put your antiques into the context and help you customers visualise how they’ll fit into their home.

But, if you run a tech retailer, then you’ll probably want a more white colour for your ambient lighting to make customers feel more like they’re in the clean, minimalist future that Apple promised us.

Task lighting: guidance

Once you’ve decided on your ambient lighting you can turn your attention to the other aspects of your interior lighting. Task lighting is what you’ll use to guide your customers around the store and it covers stuff like floor lighting and signage.

Think of the areas that it’s important your customers can find easily; the help desk, the different product sections and the checkout area. Illuminated signs high-up are what guide you around large department stores and supermarkets, but there are so many other types of task lighting fixtures you can use. Floor lighting used in aisles and hallways can draw people down them to new parts of your store. Also, use of different coloured lighting in different parts of your store will catch customers’ eyes and draw them over to areas you want them to look.

Accent and decorative

Your final main area of lighting is accent and decorative. Once you’ve set the mood with ambient lighting and made sure that customers know where to go with task lighting, it’s time to blow them away with something special.

Accent lighting is used to show your displays in the best light (literally). Spotlights and other directional lights can illuminate your new promotional campaign display in a way that makes a real splash. Car show rooms are masters of accent lighting, using light to cast shadows in all the right places to create a striking effect.

Decorative lighting puts the attention on the lighting fixtures, themselves. The antiques shop example is relevant here; you can use products as decorative lighting. A looming floor lamp and an assemblage of lava lamps can strike a retro mood that will wow your customers.


Don’t underestimate the importance of lighting when it comes to retail interior design. You have full choice over the fixtures you choose to achieve the different types of lighting in your store. Don’t feel like you have to spend loads to create the best effect – lighting is all about how you use it, not what you’ve got.