From TopShop to hot shop as High Street stores are slammed for energy waste

by Search Gate staff. Published Tue 08 Dec 2009 11:06, Last updated: 2009-12-08
Oxford Road is a shoppers' paradise but at what carbon cost?

Retailers wanting to out-do each other by creating the most enticing Christmas shopping experiences are wasting huge amounts of energy, according to new research.

A study commissioned by business price comparison service Make It Cheaper found that the average internal shop temperature is 23.6°C, more than five degrees warmer than the ideal ambient shopping temperature of 18°C as recommended by the Chartered Institute for Building Services Engineers.

The hottest recorded in a survey of London’s Oxford Street, for example, was a sweltering 27.2°C in TopShop’s flagship 90,000sq ft store. Furthermore, only six shops out of more than 100 surveyed had their doors closed at a time when the outside temperature was close to freezing.

Professor Ken Parsons, who heads up Loughborough University’s Human Thermal Environments Laboratory, said the shops' hot temperatures are a way of enticing potential customers in from the cold.

He added: “Why do the shops maintain high temperatures in the winter? It may be because the workers wish to wear light fashionable clothing. It may also be to provide what is called ‘thermal pleasure’ to customers.

“Thermal pleasure is a transient phenomenon felt when a person moves into a cold environment when too hot or into a warm environment when too cold. In the winter the first impression for the shopper who may be generally cold or have cold skin on the hands and face for example, will be the pleasure of moving to a warm and hence welcoming environment.

“After twenty minutes or so, this affect will wear off and unless clothing is reduced the customer may well become unpleasantly hot and even sticky. Moving out into the cold will then be a pleasure.”

Jonathan Elliott, managing director of Make It Cheaper, commented: “Even in hard times, this is the stage of the year when retailers literally throw caution to the wind, no matter how Arctic it is, opening their doors - wide open in most cases - and crank up the heating.

“Throw extra lights into the equation and extended opening hours, and you have exceptionally heavy business electricity consumption for the entire Christmas season. No wonder high street retailers make up one the busiest industry sectors when it comes to switching business electricity and commercial gas contracts.”

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