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Does your Business Shine?

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | July 8, 2014
Does your
business shine?
  General Store Lighting
Implementing lighting strategies can help attract customers, promote services and highlight products.


We have all been to a theatrical performance where a "star" steps towards the front of the stage, the house lights drop and all eyes in the building are drawn to the actor or actress in "the spotlight".  Without even uttering a word, everything else simply fades into the background.  This illustrates the power of light.  Appropriate lighting strategies can tell customers about your type of business (discount, moderate pricing, high end), it can highlight important products or information (accreditation/diplomas, testimonials, signature products, etc.), it can direct your line of sight to certain areas of a building and it can even reinforce your brand image.  With a tool this powerful, its a shame that we don't take more time to think about the impact light has on our individual businesses.


The first step in identifying a lighting strategy is knowing the different base types of lighting for commercial spaces.  There are four:


Ambient lighting- The most common source of lighting provides a uniform lighting profile for a larger area.  Recessed florescent lighting is a common form of ambient lighting.

Ambient Store Lighting 


Accent lighting- highlights a particular item or set of items generally through spot lighting or certain floods.


Accent Lighting 


Vertical surface lighting (also known as "shielded" or "valance" lighting-Lighting on vertical surfaces like walls, certain display cases and even building exteriors is used to draw the eye to predetermined areas like signage, awards, wall based retail products, etc.


Verticle lighting
The upward lighting under the Deli sign is shielded by a valance.



Shelf Lighting- As the name would suggest, these are lights integrated into shelving or display units to highlight particular products or enhance the refractive qualities of certain products (jewelry or glass art displays often use shelf lighting).


Lighted Display Case
Make sure display lights aren't hot enough to damage merchandise or other valuables.



Next, you have to determine the type of feel you want to achieve with your lighting scheme. 


Discounters often focus specifically on ambient lighting without determined focal points provided by other lighting types. 


Businesses that want to create an atmosphere of moderate value will use accent lighting and some shelf lighting to highlight specific signature products or services.  Moderate value businesses will also use lighting to accent awards, testimonials and branding information. 


High value businesses will utilize all lighting styles to highlight entrances, pathways, products, signature items and create a sense of style.


In most businesses, uniform light levels are undesirable.  Differing levels of light are an inexpensive and highly effective way to draw consumers into your business

Bad Lighting
Bad lighting can make products unattractive.

  and direct them to high margin products/services or guide them to certain areas of your store.  However, when creating a lighting scheme, you need to remember that other details within a business/building can radically alter lighting effectiveness.


Too many highly reflective surfaces can dissipate light and create glare.  Dark ceilings and too many dark surfaces can "absorb" light by not offering any reflection/refraction.  Using the same types of lights at the same strength throughout an area creates unintended uniformity and damages your ability to focus the consumer's eye.


Now that you know the very basics of lighting, decide what you want to achieve.  

Downtown Window Lighting
Good lighting converts windows to billboards.

What do you want to highlight?  Where do you want to physically draw the customer?  What do you want patrons to look at?  How can you improve lighting to accent your entrance, your signage and your branding information?  Creating appropriate areas of focus can help you achieve a better visual scheme.


What do you want to achieve aesthetically with the actual light?  Should you use multi-spectrum bulbs (sometimes called tri-phosphate) to achieve "truer" colors

Entrance Lighting
Changes in light intensity can identify entrances.

  (this strategy is popular in clothing retailers and home decor stores, or any business where making colors "pop" is important), or do you want to focus on energy efficiency?  Mixing lighting types can help you achieve both of these goals simultaneously.


When combined with effective floor planning, window designs, customer service and branding strategies, effective lighting can boost foot traffic, sales and encourage repeat customers.  Remember, lighting strategies are also effective when replicated on store exteriors for certain types of businesses.  Car dealerships, for example, can utilize effective lighting strategies to highlight a certain showcase vehicle and guide people into a lot to view more merchandise.  Be creative in the application of light.



Running a business can be overwhelming.  Too often, we view problemsMain Street Logowith a wide angle lens.  Instead, try and assess individual components of your business, and improve things incrementally.  It helps give you a sense of accomplishment, and if you keep achieving your small goals, eventually you will solve larger issues.  Plus, when staff understands the "why" behind positive changes, they have the opportunity to execute your business vision more effectively.  Will changing a few lights turn your enterprise into the next Fortune 500 company?  Probably not, but it can help you improve your bottom line over time. 

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.