Dealership Lighting Systems


Customers won't buy what they can't see

Key Points
Significant correlation between well-lit merchandise and purchasing patterns

You can't preach the importance of visual merchandising without considering retail lighting.

Consumers expect good lighting as part of a pleasurable shopping experience. I can't blame them; I like to see detail and true colors of products before I buy.

Many dealers fail to see the importance of adequate retail lighting and fear the added expense. There is a significant correlation between well-lit merchandise and purchasing. Many dealerships are not adequately lit as retail spaces. Some fail to properly light their products, and even more lack atmosphere as a retailer. This affects customer expectations and their product interaction, and possibly hinders loss prevention. Upgrades are needed.

Retail lighting is more than basic lighting. It serves to lure customers into your dealership, guide movement within the store and direct attention to special items on display. Lighting also enhances the mood of your retail space.

Consider the following when choosing a type of lighting.

  • Aesthetics
  • Energy efficiency
  • Maintenance
  • Installation costs
  • Relamping costs

A Little Ambiance

Ambient lighting is the basic type of lighting and is intended for general lighting purposes. Many dealerships often use large overhead fixtures — incandescent and fluorescent — for ambient light and stop there. Retailers looking for more energy-efficient lighting also use low-voltage, high-CRI halogen fixtures.

Those opting to "go green" can look to Wal-Mart for examples. The mega-retailer has started to incorporate skylights in its newer stores, allowing for natural, free lighting to augment the ambient light. Consider eco-friendly practices for your dealership. It's not only good business, but often saves money in the long run.

Other types of retail illumination are perimeter lighting schemes such as "wall washing" fixtures and focal point lighting. Wall washers spread light evenly around perimeter walls and light up the merchandise. Your lighting manufacturer might have a dual application that uses wall washers and accent lights on the same power track.

Wall washers are used extensively in the retail world and are useful for lighting all the leather and black products in our industry. These types of products absorb the available light and leave the space looking very cavelike. You may think your retail space is bright enough, but take a second look after you merchandise a section with cruiser leathers, saddlebags and luggage or tires. Where did your light go?

No to Neon

Halogen is still used in most retail environments. It offers good color, is easy to control in floodlights and spotlights, and is relatively inexpensive to operate. Metal halide is also popular due to its energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

For accent lighting, replace old, costly, neon fixtures with LEDs (light-emitting diodes). These colorful little lights are being used for decorative and accent lighting.

Before upgrading your lighting, contact a qualified lighting company for a site appraisal to identify your needs. Also educate yourself on the latest local, state and national lighting standards for new construction or remodeling. Articulate your lighting goals as a retailer; electricians and contractors will install exactly what you tell them to install, but you need to know all of your options.

To find a professional, consider consulting with the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers. A pro can help you calculate your lighting needs. Another good product resource is Display and Design Ideas magazine.

Merchandising 101 teaches tactics to make your retail space stand out. Christy Michaud is a retail merchandising specialist at Tucker Rocky Distributing. E-mail questions and comments to