These days more consumers are making the internet their first choice shopping destination, putting pressure on physical retailers.

These days more and more consumers are making the internet their first choice shopping destination, putting pressure on physical retailers to attract visitors.

Ideally, stores should act as a showcase of their goods and entice customers to browse and, hopefully, buy. Ensuring that this environment is welcoming, well-lit and a comfortable temperature is evidently key to remaining competitive. That’s why it’s amazing to still find retailers using old, inefficient and expensive lighting, refrigeration and air-conditioning that erode profits and don’t create the type of customer-friendly experience which shoppers demand.

The problem may lie in the fact that the person in charge of store design and refurbishment does not always have a responsibility or detailed understanding of the most energy efficient solutions - and the value, beyond environmental credentials, which they can bring to the shopping experience. The benefits to aesthetics and customer comfort that energy efficient solutions can bring to a retail space therefore often go unnoticed.

However, even though excessive heat or extreme cold will put off customers, these are not unusual within stores. In fact, the coldest store in the UK was found to be just 11.1C in the chilled food section, which does not make for a pleasant browsing experience when you’re in shorts and a t-shirt. Most of us would agree that shopping in freezing conditions is uncomfortable, yet many retailers refuse to add doors to their chillers as they believe it discourages consumers from opening them to make purchases. They should, however, be aware that open doors can cost £2 per hour for chill rooms and £6 per hour for freezers; we’ve calculated that just by adding transparent doors they can boost energy efficiency by 45%, as well as creating a more pleasant shopping experience for their customers.

Often consumers encounter temperatures at the other extremity of the thermometer while trying on clothes in boxy cubicles, where old lighting fixtures give off excessive heat. To counteract the by-products of these inefficient systems, the air-conditioning will usually be going at full blast, drying out the air. This can easily be dealt with by replacing outdated tungsten lights with LEDs, which provide a brilliant mono-directional light perfect for shop displays, while emitting very little heat and no UV. This means they won’t affect the in-store climate and are perfect for illuminating perishable products, while our research shows they also help retailers achieve on-going cost savings of over 60%.

Some retailers are already getting to grips with the winning combination of energy efficient lighting and product showcasing.  The Carbon Trust has worked with Menarys Retail, the Northern Irish department store chain, for example, to implement energy efficiency measures which saved the company nearly £200,000 over a year. The measures included installing more efficient lighting and removing glass diffusers from lights, whichhas cut CO2 emissions by 130 tonnes a year. The more precise illumination of products also boosted sales, according to Menarys.

Molton Brown, meanwhile, now uses LEDs to display the rainbow colours of its products without running the risk of damaging them through excessive heat and UV from inefficient lights.

These examples show that through making energy efficiency improvements, retailers can also create aesthetically appealing stores, improve customer experience and reduce the cost of powering their retail space.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that in addition to economic benefits, there are social and environmental advantages to reducing energy consumption, such as preserving fossil fuel supply and minimising climate change. Customers are increasingly aware of these issues and many are choosing retailers who are taking positive steps for the environment - as well as avoiding those who expose them to extreme temperatures or stark lighting.

  • Geoff Smyth, head of technology and delivery, Carbon Trust