How to Improve Retail Performance with LEDs

David J. Alexander
Retail using LED lights

Today's retailers understand the value that lighting adds to the consumer experience to generate sales. Yet, with upcoming holiday sales forecasted to rise 4.1% to $616.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retailers have an even bigger opportunity to ensure sales with light-emitting diode (LED) advancements.


Color rendering for retail plays a significant role in improving store performance. Commonly understood as the effect that different light sources have on the appearance of colors of objects, color rendering from LED retail lamps attracts more customers and helps save costs on retail electricity.


Studies show that consumers gravitate more toward well-lit product displays. LEDs' directional lighting capabilities, such as with spotlights, can help businesses utilize color rendering for retail to better enhance a product's color and reduce glare.


Color rendering usage
While color rendering is not necessarily a new aspect, retailers today increasingly understand the effect that display and signage lighting has on the consumer experience. The concept is fairly simple. Better lighting brings in more traffic. More traffic means more customers and more customers may convert to increased revenue.


More importantly, since energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs use 67% to 75% less energy and last as much as 6 times longer than other bulbs,1 retailers can lower maintenance costs and eliminate wasted energy. This can help lower operational expenses, reduce energy consumption and generate long-term savings.


However, to apply LED color rendering for retail successfully, there are a few do's and don'ts that businesses should consider:


  • Do identify how a certain product should appear to a consumer. Generally, the higher the Color Rendering Index (CRI), the more accurately the light source will render colors.
  • Do understand basic CRI levels to ensure that LEDs are applied to your standards. A lamp with a CRI greater than 80 can be categorized as having high color rendering capability.2
  • Do determine what lamp temperature will be most effective in what setting of your store. For example, cooler temperature lighting can provide clean, clear lighting ideally for bathrooms. Warmer colors can provide a more comfortable and cozy atmosphere applicable to family rooms or dens.
  • Don't use lamps with an incorrect CRI to the wrong application. Some CRIs may darken red colors instead of accentuating them.
  • Don't perceive color rendering and color temperature as one and the same. While the two are interconnected, color temperature describes color appearance and output while color rendering talks more to how well light renders an object's color.

LED application techniques
As LEDs emit monochromatic light, they offer a highly efficient method for color rendering in retail lighting. Retailers can use three methods to apply LED lighting for desired color and both subtle or extremely bright white light:3


  • Phosphor conversion: A phosphor converts the colored LED to white light.
  • RGB systems: Mix red, green and blue for all colors in the spectrum.
  • A hybrid method: Both phosphor-converted and monochromatic LEDs.

Such factors as retail type, inventory and store location are important when deciding what type of color rendering light applications, such as the ones outlined below, may work best for a business.


  • Downlighting: LEDs' directional lighting capability is a huge advantage in downlights, as they provide smooth dimming and tight LED binning to keep product colors vibrant.
  • Light bars: Such plug-and-play LEDs can be used under or over cabinets, in display cases or under shelves to provide accent lighting that enhances its architecture.
  • Strip lighting: Available in an array of lighting (single color, color changing RGB, variable white), LED light strips come in a roll, are lightweight and versatile, and can be used more as a decorative feature.

Achieve added savings
Because general commercial regulations today require certain lighting energy efficiency, retailers can increase their savings and cut energy costs sooner than later.


A recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)4 confirms that because of LEDs' projected market penetration, LED lighting will represent 48% of lumen-hour sales of the general illumination market by 2020 and 84% by 2030. These anticipated energy savings of LEDs are forecast (over the 2013 to 2030 period) in comparison to high-intensity discharge (HID) and other conventional light sources.


Commercial businesses perhaps have the biggest opportunity to reduce their lighting energy usage and save on costs. Nearly $1 out of $3 of a business's energy spend goes to lighting.5 To increase LED implementation in their stores, retailers can take advantage of special programs to reduce maintenance costs. In addition, they may be able to utilize available incentives, rebates and financing for both new lighting installation and retrofits. Retailers can turn to their utility providers or work with a lighting contractor to identify applicable lighting rebates that they can take advantage of to achieve long-term savings.


Take the next step with retail lighting
Upgrading or installing new retail lighting systems with innovative color rendering strategies can help retailers attract new customers and increase revenue while reducing retail electricity usage and maintenance costs.


LED lighting in general illumination applications is expected to reduce U.S. lighting energy consumption nearly 50% by 2030.6 With such market forecasts, lighting contractors can help retailers fully achieve opportunities in lower-cost lighting installations for optimal savings. Download the "How to Get the Best Results from a Lighting or HVAC Project" eBook from PG&E and make the switch to LED retail lights for long-term savings on retail electricity usage.


Referenced in article:


  1. ENERGY STAR
  2. ENERGY STAR
  3. U.S. Department of Energy
  4. U.S. Department of Energy
  5. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  6. U.S. Department of Energy
HVAC and lighting contractor