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See the Light! If you aren’t properly lighting your windows and entry points, you are losing consumer attention.

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | November 8, 2023
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It’s getting dark earlier, and that generates a needed upgrade for many businesses (especially in pedestrian areas). Lighting your windows, and all of your egress points (front entrance and alley entrance-if open to customer traffic) is critically important.

Lighting windows helps you turn your window space into a billboard that showcases products. It helps you highlight traffic and necessary business information (hours, website, special events, etc.), and it creates a more friendly atmosphere for those out walking after dark.

Lighting front and alley entrances helps draw a consumer’s eye to your points of entry. Where the eye goes the feet generally follow. With appropriate branding on the door, the correct lighting will help generate brand awareness.

So, what are your basic steps for properly lighting your store for the holiday season?

  1. Identify your window display area.- I know that sounds easy. You have windows and can identify them; but it’s more complex than that. Many window displays have a few square feet behind the window where display items are placed. The placement of those items will allow you to determine where lighting needs placed in order to properly backlight your display. If your overhead or base lighting is all in front of your display without properly backlighting, it will “wash out” the look of your display. Tape off your display area and then experiment with angled backlighting from the ceiling, and if possible, from the floor or riser level. You can use flood style lighting to highlight wide areas, and spot style lighting to enhance focal points or singular products.
  2. “Frame” your windows.- LED strip lighting, Edison bulbs, Christmas lights, or other lighting options can help you set an external viewing portal that stands out for pedestrians and drivers. LED Strip lighting can offer fade options (probably should stay away from strobe options) that can add a sense of movement to your windows.
  3. Integrate light in products- Weaving lights through products with strand lighting can add a sense of warmth to a window scene. If you can add a little motion within the display, the contrast between the dark outside and the lighted display when coupled with understated movement can draw a consumer’s gaze.
  4. Make your doors “pop”- There are battery operated and more sturdy string lighting options that can help you light entrance points as part of a coordinated design strategy. Wrapping a door in ribbon like a present, integrating wreath designs, or doing something else that’s festive from a display perspective, with lights, can reinforce the holiday season and pull customer traffic to you. If your doorways look festive you will pick up more of the “I’m just going to pop in there” type of traffic.
  5. Get your timing right.- Too many small businesses shut all the lights off the moment they are closed. That would be like paying for a billboard but requesting that they shut the floodlights off. You have potential customers that you can showcase your business to, even when you aren’t open. We have customers that walk downtown fairly late at night for dining and entertainment options. Getting a timer that shuts off at 2:30 a.m. and cranks back on at 5:30 a.m. may seem excessive, but you would be shocked at the amount of window “looks” you can pick up. Those passive views can convert to intentional visits with quality lighted displays.

Shop local hardware stores and other locally owned merchants for temporary lighting, LED strips, and fixtures. Spending some quality time on design planning (CLICK HERE for some ideas) can be a really impactful way to spend your advertising dollars. If you need assistance with display concepts, or just another set of eyes on your plan, please reach out to Emporia Main Street.

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.