Colour in Lighting: How Different Placement and Tone Can Affect Retail Store Dynamics

Shop Fitting Services / January 29, 2024

Colour in Lighting: How Different Placement and Tone Can Affect Retail Store Dynamics

Few elements of any successful retail space are more crucial or often overlooked than lighting. The power of carefully considered, intelligent lighting strategies can transform retail spaces entirely, guiding customers, drawing their attention at times, and leaving them with a positive impression. This article will analyse accepted retail lighting strategies and some lesser-known innovative ones employed by the team at 360 Shopfitters. With a wealth of knowledge and understanding in this area, they always give great thought to the lighting scheme of any place they are challenged to breathe life into. Following are some of the fundamental principles they abide by.

Dynamic lighting

The manipulation of lighting elements in retail environments all boils down to the careful placement of a variety of lights with certain qualities, namely:

  • Colour 
  • Intensity 
  • Direction

Designers and industry experts often categorise the lights best suited to each purpose within any given space into four types. 

1) Ambient Lighting

Any room that is evenly and practically lit to be able to see where we are going and navigate safely utilises ambient lighting. Natural sunlight and overhead or track lighting aim to provide maximum workable light. Although some retail spaces eschew traditional styles and lighting techniques, ambient lighting is typically the foundation around which all other strategies are built. 

  • Colour use in ambient lighting 

Soft colours work best for ambient light; most retail spaces choose neutral white for maximum visibility. The effect of colour is dramatic when applied evenly across a whole space as ambient light and can alter the tone of a space completely. Suppose you walk into a room that is predominantly bathed in red light: 

  • How does it affect your mood? 
  • What is your subconscious opinion of that space? 
  • How is your ability to view the items inside affected? 

The light’s colour will affect the products’ appearance, altering their hues and rendering specific colours black. It is much safer to play around with colour using some of the other lighting types we will address later, but ambient lighting is different. It is possible to make a space feel enticing and welcoming through warm, inviting colours, and quite the opposite if poor design decisions are made.

2) Accent lighting

When wishing to highlight specific features, areas, or products in a room, accent lighting is the way to do it. In non-retail spaces, the highlights will often be placed on random objects like plants, architectural features, or pieces of artwork. In retail settings, the principles remain the same, but the items will vary depending on the stylistic choices and products scheduled to be highlighted at that moment.  

  • Colour use in accent lighting

Once again, colour can dramatically influence people’s perception of a space or highlighted object. In the case of accent lighting, it is much less significant in the overall scheme of things, and fun colours and hues can be used to highlight products without creating an unwanted atmosphere in the wider space.

3) Task lighting

Task lighting is used where a brighter light is required to focus on the task at hand. Most common in office spaces, kitchens, and study/reading areas, there is less obvious need for task lighting in most retail spaces. However, paying attention to cashier points, customer service areas, and mirrors in and around changing rooms is essential, where task lighting will be much appreciated and valued.

  • Colour use in task lighting

Task lighting should be restricted to plain or tinted white bulbs for maximum light. Coloured lights affect the items in their vicinity and can be confusing and unhelpful in the environments mentioned above. 

4) Decorative lighting

Purely used for aesthetic satisfaction and pleasant effect, decorative lighting adds a general warmth and sense of cosiness to a space if used correctly. It bears many similarities with accent lighting, the primary distinction being that decorative lighting can be an attraction in and of itself. It does not need to seek to highlight other areas or objects but revels in its appeal. 

  • Colour use in decorative lighting

Decorative lighting is the least bound by adherence to the rules of colour use in lighting. As decorative lighting elements will likely be less common than the other forms mentioned, the risks of overpowering a scene with too many clashing colours are reduced, and it is safe to experiment with a wide range of colours. Imagine a table in the middle of a retail space with soft white ambient lighting and pale blue highlights. On the table sits a giant pink mushroom, brilliantly lit from within. It is an unusual, eye-catching attraction but does not destroy the harmony and feel of the broader space.


Light choices are an essential aspect of any successful shop refit, and it is advisable to spend time contemplating and experimenting with them. Some general principles to bear in mind include:

  • Warm light makes customers feel relaxed and comfortable, leading them to spend more time browsing.
  • Cool light facilitates focus and is excellent in areas where customers will thoroughly evaluate products. Clever use of cool lighting can also aid spot decisions and spontaneity. 
  • Strategic, informed light colour/placement will enhance the overall shopping experience and has been shown to influence customer decision-making and purchasing behaviour.

Contact us

If the time is right to spruce up or completely refit your retail space, please contact the friendly, knowledgeable team here at 360 Shopfitters. With years of collective experience and an inherent understanding of design, they are the perfect people to speak to and start the ball rolling on your project.