Retail Lighting: Best Practices

In any retail application, product visibility is priority.

Products can demand attention with the help of proper lighting. This means an open floor plan with tactical attention to lighting fixture placement, brightness, color temperature, and CRI.  The ability of LED Lighting to meet these technical requirements is what makes it the #1 choice of lighting designers and architects.

LED Track Heads

Fixture Placement

There are a variety of options to consider when designing a retail space’s lighting layout.

Volumetric lighting casts a wide cone providing general lighting aimed at covering the central areas of each department. Layers of light provide a visual hierarchy directing eyes to products which should be the most well-lit in the space. 

Products and floor layouts move constantly and lighting in a retail space should mirror this versatility. Which is why most designers prefer adjustable recessed lights or track lighting for retail applications with either narrow beam spread directional lighting on the ceiling or under-cabinet lighting in a display case directly above the products.  

Trimless Adjustable LED Recessed Lighting 

LED Track Lighting 


Another implementation of product-specific lighting is slim linear recessed lighting or under-cabinet led strips to light dark shelves and products in small spaces. 

Below is a diagram of a super-market’s produce department showing the use of volumetric (general) lighting and spot lighting with track lights to bring more attention to the fruits and vegetables. 


In this application, it’s easy to see how this much bright lighting can be power hungry. Over long business hours, the power bill adds up. Solid state LEDs can substantially reduce costs by using less power. 

It gets better. LEDs also produce less heat. An average 80% reduction in heat benefits the shelf-life of heat sensitive items, such as produce or cheese. 

Additionally, quality of light is paramount for showing products as intended. Lights can be rated with a CRI (Color Rendering Index), which rates the accuracy of colors under the light. 

Color Temperature & CRI

Choosing the correct color temperature of your LED bulbs is integral to your store’s design and can create either a cold or warm environment. Color temperature, which is measured by its K (kelvin) rating can greatly affect the way your products are displayed.

To produce a pure and more natural lighting effect — which is ideal for clothing store dressing rooms and grocery stores — consider installing 4000-4500 K bulbs. For jewelry stores that want to show off the sparkle of stones, use bulbs that go up to 5000 K boasting a bluish white color.  A good rule of thumb? The higher the CRI, the truer your product’s color will be under that light.

Brightness (Light Output) AKA Wattage 

Making sure you have ample lighting in your retail design project is very important, but luckily, simple to calculate for.  First, you’ll need to figure out the area or square footage of your retail space. For more on this, check out our article: “How Much Lighting is Enough.”

Now comes the fun part. For every square foot, you assign a set number of lumens. For general ambient lighting, a square foot at floor-level needs 20 lumens. A table or raised surface needs 30 lumens. A workspace or a retail space requires 50-70 lumens per square foot. Lumens are a scientific estimate of ambient light coming from a lighting source. Most lighting products list their lumen output on their packaging or specification sheets.

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