How to Light, Retail

How to Light: Three ways to light a fashion store

The retail sector is a hugely important part of our economy and, as a result, it has its own supporting services sector, of which lighting design consultancy forms an important part. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the UK is a world leader in retail lighting design. In this Design Clinic, I’ll show you some techniques that can be applied to all types of display lighting.

It used to be that the brighter the store, the lower the prices. However, some designers are moving to a ‘high-end ambient’ style. This is where a luxury retail outlet has high levels of uniform illumination, minimal shadows and just a few highlighted items.

For this to work, you need attractive luminaires, an excellent quality of light, and a lot of design skill. It gives an air of tranquillity and relaxed luxury rather than the high contrast, dramatic atmosphere of some stores. Our store is uncluttered and spacious. This, subconsciously, gives a more upmarket atmosphere.

Retail lighting is much more varied than other sectors and so guidance can only be given in the most general of terms. A useful approach is the technique of layering, where the overall design is built up by considering the different uses of the lighting. For example, you need to provide enough light for public safety such as circulation areas, lighting steps and changes of level.

Another layer, and the one that involves most design skill and effort, is actually lighting the products on sale. It can be argued that this is the most important aspect of retail lighting since if no-one is attracted to the merchandise, the rest is wasted effort. Don’t forget functionally important areas such as the payment desks.

The views shown in the renderings measure about 8m x 10m with a 3.5m ceiling. 



This is an example of the high-end ambient look mentioned above. Most of the illumination is provided by the large diameter (33W, 300mm) version of Reggiani’s Trybeca product. An interesting feature of this product is that it can be recessed in to the ceiling 24mm, fitted flush or project down 24mm. This last option gives a glow to the surrounding ceiling and is the one we have used in our rendering. The Trybeca is available in round, square and rectangular and a wide range of wattages and sizes. 

Further illumination is provided by lines of Reggiani’s LED Linea Luce hidden above the dropped ceiling. These not only add a glow to the upper sections of the walls but, being the high output version, they boost the illumination in the store by a further 50 per cent.

To illuminate the recesses with hanging rails, we have used the smallest profile Linea Luce. These are hidden behind a small upstand.

The overall appearance is of a bright, uniformly lit space.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires   Mainly recessed Reggiani Trybeca and Reggiani Linea Luce
  • Average horizontal illuminance   > 700 lx, Ev on long wall 450lx
  • Pros   Can give a calm and relaxed atmosphere
  • Cons   You need a good quality downlight to achieve the correct effect



This scheme exploits the wide range of beam spreads available with Linea Luce; from 7° to 88°. The three central lines of luminaires have a high lumen output but have a narrow 7° beam which highlight the floor displays. To provide extra contrast, the wide angle Linea Luce located above the ceiling has been dimmed.

As with Option A, to illuminate the recesses with hanging rails, we have used the smallest profile Linea Luce. These are hidden behind a small upstand.

Elsewhere, we have used one of my favourite spotlights for retail, the Splyt. This time, it is surface mounted and used to highlight the mannequins and shelf displays. This is a hugely adaptable luminaire and can be track, recessed, ceiling and wall mounted. The beam can be from 7° to 42° and 1,500 lm or 3,000 lm.

This option uses a good mix of techniques.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires   Reggiani Splyt and three sizes of Reggiani Linea Luce
  • Average horizontal illuminance   950 lx, Ev on long wall 380lx
  • Pros   Clean appearance to the ceiling
  • Cons   Use lighting software to verify the illumination level you want



Sooner or later you will need to use some spotlights. Shoppers’ attention is drawn to regions of high illumination and the simplest way to do this is by using a spotlight, preferably with a narrow angle.  A good solution is a ‘spot in a slot’ where the track is mounted in a recess in the ceiling.

Again, this solution uses Splyt but this time it is track mounted and partly recessed. Only the body of the spotlight is below the ceiling. This means it can be fully aimed and adjusted, but the track is hidden from view. We have used a 7° beam for maximum effect. Like in the first option, the background lighting is provided by wide angle Linea Luce above the ceiling.

Similarly, the hanging rails are illuminated using the Splyt rather than a line of light in the first two options.

The overall effect is much more dramatic with strong shadows and highlights.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires   Reggiani Splyt and Reggiani Linea Luce
  • Average horizontal illuminance   750 lx, Ev on long wall 850lx
  • Pros   Dramatic effect
  • Cons   You need to aim the spotlights correctly