Everything You Need To Know About Retail Lighting Design

Finding the proper lighting solutions for a storefront requires some background knowledge of light bulbs, fixtures, lumens, and more. Read on to learn everything you need to know about retail lighting design.

Four Kinds of Retail Lighting

Before we dive into the different types of light bulbs and fixtures, it’s essential that you understand lighting functionality. More specifically, you must know the four kinds of retail lighting: accent, ambient, task, and decorative. Every retail store contains a combination of these four classifications, each benefiting the business in different ways.


In the world of retail, accent lights primarily illuminate products, product displays, and other essential areas within the store. Overall, accent lighting naturally guides customers throughout a business, highlighting the most relevant sections for shopping. However, accent lighting is not a primary lighting solution and cannot provide a safe working environment on its own.


Because accent lighting isn’t viable as the main source of visibility in your store, you must have ambient lighting, as well. Ambient lighting is practically a backdrop that provides consistent visibility throughout the entire space.

More importantly, this form of retail lighting helps set the mood of your environment, so it’s important to accentuate your ambient lights with high-lumen bulbs and stylish fixtures. Additionally, ensure you pick a complementary color temperature—warm or cool—depending on your desired atmosphere.


Task lighting is perhaps the most useful form of retail lighting found throughout a store. Task lights are useful in functional spaces where, as the name suggests, employees conduct tasks. These functional spaces include changing rooms, check-out stations, backrooms, office spaces, and more. Serving as a supplemental light, task lighting improves visibility and safety while also boosting the customer and employee experience.


Not all lighting in your store must serve a specific function. In fact, using decorative lighting is a fantastic method for improving the ambiance of your retail space while also bolstering a unique identity and brand. Additionally, fun and interesting light bulbs and fixtures turn the shopping process into an experience, further aiding your business. Unlike task, ambient, and accent lighting, look for decorative lighting products in abstract shapes, sizes, and colors.

Measuring Illumination

There are a few different measurements common for gauging the lighting capabilities of a light bulb. Wattage and lumens help describe how well a light bulb performs and the quality of light it produces.


A light bulb’s wattage basically tells you how much power it uses during illumination. Traditionally, higher-wattage incandescent bulbs produced the brightest quality of light—around 60–100 watts. On the other hand, 25-watt lights were used for accent lighting. However, thanks to energy-efficient bulbs such as compact fluorescents and LEDs, wattage no longer equates to brightness. Instead, we use a measurement called lumens.


Lumens provide the most accurate measurements of a light bulb’s brightness. Similar to wattage, higher lumen counts indicate a brighter device, with 1,600 lumens producing the same quality of light as a 100-watt incandescent.

You may notice that some high-lumen bulbs feature surprisingly low wattages. This is because advanced CFL and LED technology allows modern lighting solutions to get more functionality with less energy consumption. Therefore, we highly recommend that you prioritize high-lumen ratings when shopping for light bulbs.

Selecting Bulb Types

You now understand the various functions of retail lighting and the importance of high-lumen capabilities, but all of this information is useless without the perfect bulb type. There are three types of light bulbs used in retail stores today: halogen, compact fluorescent (CFL), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).


Halogen lights utilize halogen gas to provide improved lifespans and lumens compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. These bulbs are ideal for accent or decorative lighting functions and fixtures, but they are also suitable for task lighting applications.

However, incandescent lighting systems are extremely energy-inefficient, and halogen gas is potentially harmful to the environment.


Compact fluorescents mimic incandescent lights and are even sometimes compatible with incandescent light fixtures. Unlike halogen bulbs, compact fluorescents are safer for the environment and consume less energy overall. Plus, CFLs are ideal for ambient and task lighting and produce over 50 lumens per watt!


Even still, the most advanced lighting solutions remain LEDs, which boast unbelievably long operating lives, low energy-consumption rates, superior durability, and high-quality light distribution. Furthermore, LEDs are highly customizable and applicable to all four types of retail lighting.

Selecting Fixture Types

Once you determine the type of light bulb for your retail lighting system, it’s time to browse fixture options. A light fixture is a device that houses the electric lamp and technology required for illumination.

These fixtures are often light bulb sockets, although certain LED fixtures feature hardwired lamps. Assuming you require fixtures with sockets, there are plenty of options to consider. While each type of light fixture offers something different in terms of decor and function, most retail spaces combine multiple fixtures for superior store-wide lighting.

Let’s explore the various kinds of light fixtures that are suitable for retail environments:

Suspended Hanging

This fixture is ideal for ambient and task lighting in high ceilings. It often comes in sets and boasts even light dispersion.

Flush Recessed

Suitable for low ceilings and ambient and accent lighting applications, this fixture typically features custom trim options to match your specific decor.

Coffered Light Recess

The coffered light recess is specifically designed for sunken and coffered ceiling features to make the space appear open. However, it often requires specialized installation services.

Flush Light Panel

This is the flat-panel equivalent to the flush recessed fixture, as this design hides bulbs completely and is ideal for decorative and ambient lighting in low ceilings.


This fixture is a hanging, recessed bulb that features a distinctive minimalist style and even light diffusion, making it highly suitable for ambient lighting.

Exposed Canister

Designed primarily for industrial-styled retail settings, this fixture earns its name due to its canister-shaped design. Very applicable for open ceilings as ambient or accent lighting.

Track Lighting

Track lighting works best in larger retail spaces, as this fixture covers a significant area and works as ambient, accent, and task lighting. This is a practical and affordable lighting solution for most businesses, regardless of size.

Surface Mounted

This fixture boasts an extremely simple installation process and is ideal as ambient and task lighting for tighter ceilings. It also has significantly more customization options compared to other fixture types on this list.

Suspended Mounted Luminary

This is a sunlight-mimicking fixture that’s suitable for larger retail spaces as ambient lighting.

Full Room Luminous Ceiling

The full-room luminous ceiling fixture provides total light distribution throughout an entire space, making it highly useful for the largest of retail stores.


The pendant fixture is a customizable decorative and task lighting fixture that hangs at least seven feet above the floor, providing consistent light diffusion.


Finally, this rarely-implemented fixture provides directional lighting. Because of this, it is ideal for accent or task lighting in studios and sets.

Now that you have read everything you need to know about retail lighting design, you can confidently outfit your store with the best possible lighting solutions. Luckily, we at Stylighting are a proud light bulb supplier with a wide selection of high-efficiency and high-lumen LED products to meet your specific retail needs. Check out our selection today!

Everything You Need To Know About Retail Lighting Design

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