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03/22/2022

How Store Lighting Influences Sales

With an LED remodel, grocery retailers can enhance product and the shopping experience
AJ Gorman
Lighting Designer at Windward Engineers and Consultants
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How Store Lighting Influences Sales
The color-rendering technology available in LED sources can make colors appear more vivid, enticing customers to purchase items such as produce.

Grocery stores have quickly become the most frequently visited retail destinations during the last two years. The goal was simple: Go in, pick up and get out. Now that COVID-19 restrictions have loosened, however, customers are reverting to their regular shopping routines. Consequently, grocery stores are looking for ways to improve their retail offerings to satisfy shoppers. One of the key ways to enhance the shopping experience is through lighting.

In Living Color

Most commonly, lighting has been used in grocery stores for guiding customers, helping them feel safe and signaling them to open checkout lines. When used properly, lighting can also help move products off the shelves. Similar to Photoshop or a filter on your phone that “corrects” or enhances the image through vibrancy and oversaturation, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) can do this in real life. The color-rendering technology available in LED sources can make colors appear more vivid, enticing customers to pick up that vibrantly green kale, those bright-red strawberries and that juicy red steak.

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How Store Lighting Influences Sales
An object appears to us a certain color because it reflects that color light.

For years, high Color Rendering Index (CRI) light sources were lauded to render colors effectively. However, high-CRI sources were designed to match the appearance of colors under an incandescent lamp — not an ideal goal for a grocery store — and it was difficult to modify traditional light sources to improve color rendering. Today, the industry has the ability and technology to manipulate LED light sources to an incredible degree. Now LED lights can ensure that colors are saturated and oversaturated. Think of all the different photo filters on our phones: vivid, blush, warm, cool and dramatic, to name just a few. LED light sources are equipped with a detailed brush ability to noticeably change the appearance of colors in a space. Lighting within grocery stores can be multifunctional to provide necessary light and sales-boosting potential. With more vibrant and appetizing features, the in-store shopping experience becomes more captivating. Additionally, improving the customer experience through lighting design makes the in-store shopping experience competitive with the convenience of delivery and pickup.

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How Store Lighting Influences Sales
One of the key ways to enhance the grocery shopping experience is through lighting.

Project Red Light

White light is a combination of all of the colors in the visible spectrum, and humans see these colors separated as a rainbow by a prism. An object appears to us a certain color because it reflects that color light. For instance, a strawberry appears red because it reflects the red component of a white-light source. If the white light source doesn’t contain a lot of red light, the strawberry appears dull because there’s not enough red light to reflect into our eyes. While early LED adopters received energy savings, the red-light content in these early white-light LEDs was almost nonexistent. Today’s quality LED fixtures don’t have that issue, but why should we settle for an average amount of red light in our light sources? If grocers have more red-light content in their white-light sources, they can make red objects appear oversaturated and enticing. LED technology gives us the opportunity to present that strawberry in the best possible light. 

LED technology is widely available to adjust the color content of white light, called color rendering. The light sources in screw-in lamps and new LED fixtures make it easier to implement in retrofits and buildouts. The lighting industry has traditionally used CRI to help quantify the rendering ability of light sources. CRI was riddled with issues from the beginning, and manufacturers found it easy to cheat the system, making customers believe that they would get a light source with excellent color-rendering ability. It didn’t make objects appear saturated or attractive, however.

With the advent of LED sources and the ability to tune the color content of white-light sources so well, the lighting industry developed a new metric called TM-30 to measure and describe how the light source renders colors all along the color space. Specifying a light to improve the appearance of a specific color is a relatively new option in the lighting design industry. It’s recommended that a lighting designer knowledgeable in color rendering and TM-30 be involved in specifying light sources to ensure that the color boosting is optimized for the application.

LED fixtures are highly efficient and can dramatically improve energy efficiency, saving energy and maintenance costs compared with fluorescent light fixtures. Between the energy savings, reduced maintenance and improved color rendering, a LED lighting remodel can dramatically change the operation of a grocery store. 

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