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Importance of lighting in retail stores and hospitality

Importance of lighting in retail stores and hospitality

Lighting is a key part of your visual merchandising displays, as the way you highlight specific products or areas of your store or venue can greatly influence your customers’ purchase decisions.

Whether you run a retail store, pub, bar, restaurant or hotel, you need to consider how the lighting you use is influencing your customers’ mood and way they interact with your business. To get started, you should be aware of the different types of lighting and where they are used. Some types of lighting can make your store seem more spacious, while other types of lighting work to create a warm, cosy atmosphere.

Types of lighting in visual merchandising

There are four types of lighting that you can use to highlight areas in your retail store or hospitality venue [1]:

1. Ambient lighting

This refers to the store’s main lighting source - usually overhead bulbs or bars. The lights you use for this totally depends on the size of your store. If you have high ceilings and floor space set over a large area, then you’ll need lots of powerful lights to achieve the same effect as a small store with dimmer, less powerful lights. If a store is too dark, it will be difficult for customers to read labels, while bright lighting is uncomfortable.

2. Task lighting

These are lights that are focused on areas that need more attention on them. Areas such as the tills and the changing rooms require more light so that customers can accurately see how the clothes fit them and so that staff can clearly see the money and cards that they are handling.

ambient lighting

task lighting
accent lighting

decorative lighting

3. Accent lighting

Highlight specific products to draw customer’s attention to using accent lighting. Shining a light on key products lets customers know that they are important, and is also great for focusing attention on seasonal, new and discounted products. It’s ideal for use in window displays for catching the eyes of passersby and inviting them inside to browse.

4. Decorative lighting

Finally, decorative lighting is everything else you can think of: from fairy lights to candles! It is perfect for using to evoke emotions or nostalgic memories, which is why this style of lighting is popular around key dates such as Christmas. Restaurants and bars often use this type of lighting, by using candles and lamps at tables, to create a cosy atmosphere.

Consider the type of venue you are lighting

The type of venue you are running will impact the decisions you make about lighting. For example, a bar or restaurant is unlikely to use a lot of bright, ambient lighting, as the ambience of these establishments revolves around the night time trade.

Therefore, bright lighting is unexpected as customers prefer the dimly-lit atmosphere at this time of day. Studies have actually shown that when a restaurant has cosy low-lighting, customers are likely to stay longer and spend more [2]. Conversely, restaurants with bright lighting, such as fast-food joints, are designed to encourage customers to eat quickly and move on, so that they can maintain a high turnover.

types of lighting in visual merchandising

Lighting has a big impact on customers’ purchase decisions, as it has been shown that bright lighting in retail increases impulse purchases [3]. It is always better to opt for a brighter lighting scheme in retail, as it enhances the appearance of your products. Customers will appreciate being able to see your products clearly, alongside the prices and specifications which help them make a decision about whether to buy or not.

retail display lighting

You need to ensure that you do not go too far with the brightness, as insufficient lighting hinders visibility, while customers will react negatively if the lighting is too bright.

The impact on lighting on customers is instant as they enter the premises, so you need to ensure that your lighting is suitable from the moment they enter to the moment they leave.

Visual merchandising and lighting tools

What do you need to create the perfect atmosphere with lighting within your venue? Here at UK POS, we've got a variety of lighting tools and visual merchandising accessories that can help you boost sales and improve the interior design of your business.

Hospitality venues and retailers alike would benefit from using backlit poster frames to display their offers, promotional imagery and other important information. LED backlit posters mean that your messages are very visible, eye-catching to passersby, and gives your business a professional look.

They are commonly seen in use at cinemas to advertise movie posters, but are perfect for use in retail window displays and within pubs, bars and restaurants. They work especially well in rooms with dim lighting or in the evenings, as it helps your messages to stand out more.

We also stock an LED Pavement Sign here at UK POS, which is ideal for attracting revellers on a night out, as well as being able to be seen from cars passing by.

High-end bars and restaurants would benefit from using LED menu covers, which give a sense of luxury to your food and drink menus. These illuminated restaurant menus feature a bright white LED backlight that provides a soft glow, making it easier for guests to read in darker environments.

For retailers wishing to highlight key items, or the most expensive and luxurious products on their shelves, then you won’t go wrong by using under shelf lighting. Place underneath your shelves to illuminate the products sitting below and create an eye-catching visual merchandising display.

They are available in adhesive and magnetic options and in a variety of sizes, so you can find the perfect lighting kit for your shelving type.

backlit posters at a cinema

LED pavement sign for bars

under shelf lighting for retail

If you’ve found this article interesting, why not also take a look at our guide to product placement in retail?

Alysha Bennett

Alysha is a copywriter at UK POS, with experience working in B2B and B2C companies, as well as with charities. She has been curating consumer and retail trends to assist retailers in implementing effective point of sale materials into their own businesses for over five years.


1. Sarah Caine, ‘How does lighting affect retail display?’, Unibox, May 2017, https://www.unibox.co.uk/news-inspiration/how-does-lighting-affect-retail-display [accessed June 2021].

2. Single Platform, How Significantly Does Restaurant Lighting Affect the Meal?, https://www.singleplatform.com/blog/restaurant-customer-experience/dining-experience/how-significantly-does-restaurant-lighting-affect-the-meal/ [accessed June 2021].

3. Ebster and Garaus, Store Design and Visual Merchandising: Creating Store Space That Encourages Buying, (New York: Business Expert Press, 2015), p125-128.