8 Ways That Lighting Impacts Retail Spaces

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It’s no secret that lighting can have a profound affect on consumers making their way through retail spaces. Most people can quickly reflect on a store they recently stepped foot in and recall how just the light levels alone may have had an impact on their overall shopping endeavor, whether it be good or bad. However, while most of us can quickly recall the feeling that was evoked, most people don’t understand the science and measurable impact that store lighting has on its consumers. Shopper moods, buying behavior, employee productivity, energy efficiency, your brand, and even your bottom line will all feel the affects of just the lighting in your space.  

If you operate a retail space, or are just especially curious on lighting psychology, take a moment to dig into these 8 different ways that lighting affects the overall success of retail businesses, and how you can go about making improvements!

1. Customer Moods

We can quickly envision various types of retail environments that design light levels around their offerings — a dimly lit spa will obviously feel very different from a brightly lit big box retailer, for example.

But what if the opposite were true? What if the status-quo of large retail environments was more aligned with the relaxed spa ambiance, or vice versa? Understanding the psychological impact that your lighting system has on your customers will help you find the ideal lighting design: hues, saturation, and light levels that put your customers in the right headspace for your offerings. Let’s look at a couple specific ways light levels can impact mood and perception:

Active Lighting: Looking to energize your customers as they make their way through your large, high-traffic store? Lighting designs that provide bright light levels with cooler, bluer light hues will help to create an environment that promotes alertness and productivity. Cooler lighting has also been observed to lower melatonin and reduce fatigue, according to a study by Kenan-Flagler Business School of UNC.

Warm, Inviting Lighting: Want to make your retail space feel snug and cozy? Light levels also impact the perceived size of your store, and warmer light levels with yellower tones will help to create a smaller, more intimate environment to help foster a sense of nostalgia and familiarity for your customers.

Before making efforts to implement a new lighting design, consider the ideal mood you’d like to instill in your customers, and work with a lighting designer to help find the right tones and light levels to create that environment.

2. Employee Moods

Your customers aren’t the only ones spending time in your store! Offering light levels that foster a productive environment for your employees will have implications on your store’s success as well. Brighter, cooler light levels have been measured to make employees more productive, while improving their alertness and mood. This is helpful for both the overall efficiency of your store as employees are able to accomplish more work, as well as the level of customer service your employees are able to provide.

Furthermore, because LED lighting mimics the spectrum of natural light, it is also used in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder and has been shown to improve mood, decrease stress, and reduce anxiety. Poor light levels have been linked to cause headaches, eye strain, and fatigue that results in discomfort overtime. Improving your light levels can help your employees both perform better and work happy.

3. Product Displays & Merchandising

The best store lighting doesn’t merely allow customers to see products, but actually improves the perceived quality of the product as well. In a 2010 lighting experiment of a grocery supermarket, researchers lit half of the store with LED lights, and the other half with traditional fluorescent lights of the course of 21 weeks. The study found that the LED-lit portion of the store had a 2% increase in overall sales, attributed to improvements of the perceived freshness and attractiveness of the products.

Customers of PEC have also had similar experiences!

Daltile, a leading US supplier of porcelain and ceramic tiles, was having issues with their dated fluorescent lighting system in their showroom casting a yellowish tint on their display of stone tile offerings. This tint was having an impact on what customers thought they were purchasing in the showroom versus what the product actually looked like in their homes, creating misaligned expectations and frustrating experiences. To overcome this challenge, Daltile worked with PEC to improve the light levels actually hitting their products by leveraging the best optics and fixtures available for their specific use case, letting the amazing detail of their tile products shine through for their customers.

See how brighter and improved light levels revitalized Daltile’s showroom experience:

4. Company Brand

The mood customers feel in your store will directly impact the feelings they associate towards your brand. This attitude affects not only their in-the-moment purchasing decision while actively shopping, but also the likelihood of them becoming a repeat customer. Forbes highlights a study focused on experience-based retail that determined “the way customers feel about a brand experience has a 1.5x on their brand-oriented actions. The study also showed that 93% of retailers believe customers are more likely to spend money with a brand they feel connected to.” Stores using their brick-and-mortar locations as an opportunity to create an experience for their shoppers can significantly increase the likelihood of forming an emotional bond, and create a repeat purchaser going forward — and it all starts with your lighting design.

Let’s take a look at Nike for example, a company notorious for its branding experiences. The global sports retailer astutely leverages various types of accent lighting throughout their brick-and-mortar locations to prominently highlight images of their well-loved athletes & influencers wearing the clothes on display. Nike understands that a substantial part of their value proposition is giving consumers both the technology and fashion that will make them look and feel like the athletes they admire. The accent lighting featured in the stores helps to reinforce those underlying desires throughout the shopping experience, keeping them at top-of-mind when it comes time to make a purchase.

Nike Retail Location

5. Store Sales

In what is really just the culmination of the above factors coming together, your store lighting will impact your overall revenue — with the lighting having both a direct and indirect impact.

The direct impact can be noted back to our grocery supermarket example, where researchers found in their study that when all other variables were equal, the side of the store that had been retrofitted for an updated LED lighting system enjoyed a 2% sales increase of a 21-week span — just from transitioning to LED!

The indirect, psychological effects previously mentioned have a substantive impact on sales as well. When observing the effects of branding, Harvard Business Review found that consumers that were categorized as being “fully connected” were 52% more valuable than the average consumer. Investing in your retail experience is an important step towards driving your existing customers to that fully connected threshold of brand affinity.

6. Energy & Maintenance Expenses

One of the biggest problems retail stores don’t realize they have is the energy inefficiencies of their current lighting systems, resulting in expenses of up to 3-4 times more than what’s needed just to power their lights. Several factors come into play when looking at lighting costs:

  • Lighting Technology: LED Lighting is the gold-standard for energy efficiency, using up to 80% less energy that traditional fluorescent lighting systems. Businesses that transition their lighting to LED have the opportunity to drastically reduce their overall energy spend each month.
  • Lighting Design (Bulbs, Fixtures, & Optics): While it’s true that just transitioning to LED can help you reduce your energy spend, not all LED systems are created equal. Coming up with a design for your facility that uses the best bulbs, fixtures, and optics available to optimize the light levels for where you need it most is another critical step to getting the most energy efficient lighting possible. That’s why it’s important to work with a lighting design expert who can help you understand where exactly your wasted lighting is in your space and design a system that will both reduce spend and provide better light levels.
  • Lighting Control Systems: Lighting controls, or “smart lighting”, is another piece of your lighting design that can help to reduce your overall energy spend and energy usage. Implementing a lighting control system that can automatically turn on, off, or adjust depending on what’s actively happening in the space can help retailers cut down on wasting energy to light areas that aren’t being used, or from providing too much light beyond what’s really needed.
  • Maintenance Expenses: Power bills aren’t the only expenses that accompany retail lighting systems — and LED bulbs can last up to 25 times longer than incandescents, meaning less money spent on bulb replacements.

Investing in commercial lights designs that will allow your space to run more efficiently can offer immediate relief to your energy spend.

7. Energy Usage and Carbon Footprint

Directly tied to reducing your energy expenses, reducing your energy use and carbon footprint also has an impact on the world!

Let’s quickly look at the work we’ve completed for Costco. Through over 1,000 LED retrofitting projects that PEC has completed at 600 Costco locations across the US, we’ve helped them reduce their energy usage by 117,685,864 kWh to date. That amount of power is equivalent to…

  • 92,276,642 pounds of coal burned
  • 16,228 homes’ electricity use for a year
  • 9,384,709 gallons of gasoline consumed
  • 10,145,229,001 smart phones charged

All of this didn’t happen for Costco overnight, and small initial changes can make a big impact over time.

See our work with Costco

8. Parking Lot Safety & Security

Does your retail location also have a parking lot? In addition to your parking lot lighting energy usage, you should also note that better lighting can increase levels and safety and security. Your nighttime shoppers are more at risk of theft, assault, and injury as a result of poor lighting. In some case, poor lighting that’s deemed to be negligible could potentially leave you legally liable as well.

YouTube video
PEC LED Lighting Retrofit for Rancho Temecula Shopping Center

How to find the best lighting design for your retail space?

You’re in the right place! Pacific Energy Concepts specializes in offering high-performing, energy-efficient lighting designs tailored for your business. Get in touch using the form below to get started!


  • https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side 
  • https://onlinemba.unc.edu/news/how-lighting-affects-productivity/
  • https://www.shopify.com/retail/retail-lighting
  • https://www.grocerydive.com/news/grocery–how-store-lighting-impacts-retail-sales/535258/
  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/kaleighmoore/2019/06/19/is-experience-based-retail-the-secret-to-long-term-customer-relationships/?sh=31bdfa5f3fb1
  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckpalmer/2020/12/30/2019-top-10-best-retail-chain-experiences/?sh=39d4d8b72256
  • https://retailrestaurantfb.com/light-liability/
  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/245385092_Lighting_for_work_A_review_of_visual_and_biological_effects

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