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What does CRI Mean in Retail Lighting?

Creating the perfect ambiance in a retail space is crucial to attracting the right customers and boosting sales. Lighting is essential to this atmosphere, and getting it right can make all the difference. One aspect that many retailers overlook is the CRI or color rendering index. In simple terms, CRI refers to how well a light source shows colors compared to natural light. A higher CRI means colors look more natural and vibrant, while a lower CRI can make them dull and muted. In this blog, we will delve into what CRI is, why it's essential for retail spaces, and how you can implement high CRI lighting in your store. We'll also address common misconceptions about CRI and whether it guarantees better sales in retail. So, if you want to create a welcoming environment that highlights your products' true colors, keep reading!

Understanding CRI: A Basic Overview

CRI is a quantitative measure of a light source's ability to reveal objects' colors faithfully compared to an ideal or natural light source. As stated before, CRI stands for Color Rendering Index and measures how accurately colors are reproduced under a light. CRI's unit of measurement is a number between 0 and 100, with 100 being similar to the sun's light.

Going a bit deeper into why CRI is essential, the human eye sees color as a result of light reflecting off different surfaces. For the eye to see any one color at all, that specific wavelength of color must be present in the light source.

That means if you have a light source that doesn't faithfully reproduce the color green, for example, the leaves of a tree will look dull and off-color.

You've likely experienced low CRI lightning before. Mercury vapor lamps were popular in parking garages a few years ago. They were very efficient but didn't reproduce colors in the higher end of the light spectrum. That made people's skin look green and sallow.

That's because that lamp type only outputted colors in the Green and Blue spectrum, meaning that the natural pinks and reds of human skin were not reflected back into the eye.

The Importance of CRI in Retail

Now, think about that in regard to your store. If you have beautiful dresses that are vibrantly colored, but your light fixtures have a low CRI, they will not look pleasing in your store, even though they may pop with color once worn in daylight.

In retail lighting design, CRI plays a crucial role in influencing customer perception and the visual appeal of merchandise. High CRI lighting accentuates details, attracting customer attention and contributing to a positive shopping experience. CRI also impacts color temperature, ensuring that products look true to life.

Delving Deeper: How is CRI Determined?

To determine the CRI of a lamp, its light spectrum is analyzed. The calculation takes into account the color quality and gamut index. Factors like natural light and color spectrum contribute to a high CRI rating, which reflects color quality and brightness. LED lights undergo CRI testing for accurate color rendering, and you can usually find the CRI on the spec sheet.

The Process of Measuring CRI

The process of measuring CRI involves comparing the true colors under a light source to natural light. Special machinery is used to assess the color spectrum and evaluate color quality. Higher CRI values indicate superior color rendering ability, impacting the ability of a light source to render colors accurately.

Factors Influencing CRI

The correlated color temperature (CCT) profoundly impacts the CRI of a light source, influencing its ability to render colors accurately. Additionally, the light spectrum and current lighting source directly determine the CRI value in retail settings. It's crucial to consider these factors when selecting lighting for art galleries or retail spaces to ensure optimal color rendering.

The Role of Light Sources in CRI

Different light sources possess varying CRI values, influencing color accuracy in retail settings. LED lighting stands out with its ability to enhance color rendering due to its high CRI values. The selection of light sources significantly impacts the ability of a light source to accurately represent colors, which is essential for retail environments aiming to showcase products true to colors.

Different Light Sources and Their CRIs

Different light sources play a critical role in retail lighting, with LED lights standing out for their energy efficiency and high CRI values. The retail industry favors LEDs due to their exceptional color rendering ability, ensuring accurate color reproduction and vibrant tones. This high CRI enhances the color quality of retail displays.

The Impact of LED Lighting on CRI

LED lighting, with its ability to offer high CRI values, is vital in enhancing the color quality and visual appeal of retail environments. It accurately renders the true colors of products, crucial for showcasing merchandise in its natural daylight, thus influencing customer perception and purchase decisions positively.

Choosing the Correct CRI Range for Your Retail Space

When designing your retail space, understanding the right CRI range is crucial. The right lighting design can enhance your products, drawing attention with true colors. Selecting a high CRI rating ensures accurate color rendering, influencing customer experience and creating an inviting environment. A higher CRI means better color quality, vital for retail spaces.

What Is the Successful Use of High CRI in Retail

As we move toward an LED-centric lighting standard, the role of CRI is becoming more important. High CRI lighting has a higher cost, and so the modern retailer will need to make a choice on whether or not the quality if worth the cost.

Clients who benefit the most from higher CRI lighting include clothing retailers (as the colors of the clothes pop more in store, driving sales), grocers (higher CRI lighting makes fresh foods look more appetizing, and the packaging look brighter), restaurants (similar to grocery, high CRI lighting makes the foods look more appealing).

One client in particular, a clothing retail client, opted to go with a higher CRI light product in a recent renovation. The clothing simply looked better under the higher CRI lamps, and they decided to move forward with replacing lamps at their other locations as a result.

Common Myths and Misconceptions About CRI

Debunking common misconceptions about CRI is crucial for informed lighting decisions in retail spaces. The highest CRI doesn't always ensure the right lighting fixture, and higher lumens don't always equate to higher CRI. Understanding brightness, warranty details, and addressing misconceptions about low CRI are essential for making informed lighting choices.

Myth: High CRI Lighting Always Improves Product Appearance

Reality: While high CRI lighting tends to represent colors more accurately, it doesn't always mean products look better. The perception of color and appearance can depend on the type of product, the background color, and the overall lighting design. Some products may look more appealing under lower CRI lighting depending on the context.

Myth: Low CRI Lighting is Always Bad for Retail

Reality: Low CRI lighting isn't universally bad for retail spaces. In some cases, especially where the color accuracy isn't critical (like in warehouses or stock areas), low CRI lighting may be sufficient and more cost-effective. It's about matching the lighting quality with the needs of the space.

Myth: High CRI Lighting is Energy Inefficient

Reality: While it's true that some high CRI light sources were less energy-efficient in the past, advances in lighting technology have made it possible to achieve high CRI with good energy efficiency. LED lighting, in particular, offers high CRI options without a significant trade-off in energy consumption.

Myth: All High CRI Lights are Equal in Color Quality

Reality: CRI is a measure of color fidelity, but it doesn't capture everything about color quality. Two light sources with the same CRI can render colors differently. Other metrics, like TM-30, provide a more comprehensive understanding of color rendering.

Myth: High CRI Lighting is Too Expensive for Retail Use

Reality: The cost of high CRI lighting has decreased significantly with technological advancements. While they might be more expensive upfront compared to low CRI alternatives, the improved customer experience and potential for increased sales can offset the initial investment.

Myth: High CRI Lighting Is Always Better for All Products

Reality: Different products can benefit from different lighting conditions. For example, warm lighting might enhance the appeal of wood and leather goods, while cooler, high CRI lighting might be better for jewelry and electronics.

Myth: Low CRI Lighting Has No Place in Modern Retail Design

Reality: Strategic use of low CRI lighting can be effective in certain areas of a retail store, like accentuating specific textures or creating ambiance in a space where color accuracy is not a priority.

Does High CRI Guarantee Better Sales in Retail?

Implementing high CRI lighting doesn't guarantee better sales, but it can positively impact customer experience. High CRI lighting enhances the color spectrum, potentially influencing customer behavior in retail spaces. While high CRI doesn't guarantee better sales, it contributes to an inviting retail environment. High CRI lighting design improves color quality scale, potentially impacting customer perception. Utilizing high CRI lighting can positively influence the retail ambiance, potentially impacting sales.


To truly enhance the shopping experience for your customers, it is crucial to understand the question what does CRI mean in retail lighting. CRI, or Color Rendering Index, plays a significant role in accurately portraying the true colors of products and creating an inviting atmosphere. By implementing high CRI lighting, you can ensure that your merchandise looks vibrant and appealing to potential buyers. Measuring CRI involves various factors, including the light source used and the process of measurement. LED lighting, in particular, has had a significant impact on improving CRI in retail spaces. It is essential to choose the correct CRI range for your specific retail environment and conduct regular testing to maintain optimal lighting conditions.

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