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News - 15 July 2010

Retailers accused of squandering energy

A third of high street chains are wasting huge amounts of energy by operating their air conditioning below the recommended summer store temperature of 24°C. Make It Cheaper, the business price comparison service, has been checking up on stores.

Furthermore, of all the stores measured in the experiment, which took place on a sweltering July day, only one kept its doors closed to keep the cool air from escaping.

Armed with thermal imaging cameras capturing temperatures at shop entrances, the Make It Cheaper team researched retailer habits on London's Oxford Street when the outside temperature in the south east recorded a sizzling 28.4°C. The research shows that retailers are effectively burning millions of pounds and damaging the environment by turining up their air conditioning beyond what is required to make for a pleasant shopping experience. The fact that they are also leaving their doors wide open makes it all the more excessive.

Key findings include:

  • A third of stores operated below 24°C, against advice on the Carbon Trust's website, which recommends their air conditioning doesn't operate below this temperature.
  • Whilst there was a difference of as much as eight degrees between outside and inside temperatures, just one store - Debenhams - kept its doors closed to prevent the cool air escaping and the warm air entering
  • Next was the worst offender with an ambient temperature of 20.1°C and a difference of 8.3°C at the door compared with the outside temperature,
  • Boots, River Island and Ann Harvey did not fare much better, at 21.1, 21.6 and 22.4 degrees respectively. Boots at least had automatic doors, though these were recorded as open almost all the time due to the high volume of traffic into and out of the store

Jonathan Elliott, managing director of Make It Cheaper, commented: “Shopkeepers in New York get fined $400 by the City Council if they have their doors open with the air conditioning on because it burns so much more energy to cool a shop than it does to keep it warm. This can only be a taste of things to come when the government's CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme kicks in and forces retailers to re-think how they use energy in their stores.

There are simple things that staff can do now, however, such as to challenge head office policy, set the thermostat higher, turn off some of the lights and tweak the automatic doors to close more frequently. It is common sense, saves money as well as energy and is everybody's responsibility.”

According to figures from The Carbon Trust, the retail sector is responsible for over five million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. It is estimated that energy savings of up to 20% [equivalent to more than £300m] are possible across the sector.

Cutting down on unnecessary waste and getting the right energy contracts go hand-in-hand for any business. Switching business energy suppliers can reduce bills by as much as 50%. Taking energy efficiency measures can bring down annual bills by a further 10%-30%.

High Street Coldest Shops League Table:

Store / Store temperature (degrees Celsius)

  • Next 20.1
  • Boots* 21.1
  • River Island 21.6
  • Ann Harvey 22.4
  • Uniqlo 23.3
  • Thorntons 23.9
  • Russell & Bromley 25
  • Starbucks 25.6
  • BHS 25.6
  • Barratts 25.9
  • TopShop 25.9
  • John Lewis 26
  • Nike 26.6
  • Debenhams** 27.3
  • House of Fraser 28
  • GAP 28.1
  • H&M 29.1
  • HMV 29.1

*Automatic door open due to footfall

**Doors kept closed

The experiment looked at a number of factors to identify the efficiency of the air conditioning, measuring the outside temperature, the temperature at the shop entrance and whether the doors were open, closed or automatic.

Read related items on:
Retail, pubs, clubs and restaurants
Carbon Emissions
Make It Cheaper

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