Retailers urged to green stores to boost bottom line

Retailers could give shoppers a better experience and boost profits by greening their stores, says a report from the World Green Building Council (GBC).

The report, Health, wellbeing and productivity in retail: The impact of green buildings on people and profit, says that there is a surge in interest in health and wellbeing in the property sector, but that most retailers are missing out. It puts forward the case that stores with green characteristics such as good levels of daylight, fresh air and greenery, could be more attractive and potentially more profitable.

Evidence supporting that case includes:

  • Research by the International Council of Shopping Centres suggests that lifestyle centres – connected sets of uncovered stores with pedestrianised walkways and greater connections with nature – perform better than conventional malls in terms of economics (with increased numbers of stores visited and higher numbers of repeat visits)
  • American retailer Walmart developed a concept store where only half of the store was daylit. It found that in those daylit areas, sales per square foot were significantly higher
  • Research suggests customers are likely to buy more in stores with natural surroundings. When shown images of retail spaces, customers rate those with greenery as friendlier, say they would stay longer and visit more frequently, and report they would be willing to pay a higher price for the same product when pictured in a more natural setting.

The report, which was led by the UK Green Building Council, presents ways in which retailers can measure the impact of place on profit using data – particularly on consumer behaviour – which may already be available. It sets out three ways retailers can begin to understand how their spaces currently affect people and the performance of the organisation, using what WorldGBC has called the Retail Metrics Framework:

  • Environment: the physical features of the retail setting believed to have an impact on consumers and employees, such as air quality, thermal comfort, lighting and daylighting, noise, views and biophilia, interior layout, look and feel, active and inclusive design, amenities and community space
  • Experience: how employees and customers perceive the space they occupy, through surveys or “perception studies”
  • Economics: the organisational and financial outcomes that may be affected by environment and experience. These include costs relating to employees (absenteeism, staff retention, medical costs, medical complaints and building complaints); revenue relating to consumers (sales, footfall, dwell time, loyalty and distance travelled); and company brand.

The report is part of the World GBC’s Better places for people campaign, which is sponsored by ARUP, B+H Architects, the International WELL Building Institute, Land Securities, Lendlease, Marks & Spencer, Saint-Gobain, Skanska and Uponor. The UK group leading on this project included: Arup Associates; BCSC; British Land; Bouygues Development; Buro Happold; CBRE; Cushman & Wakefield; JLL; John Lewis Partnership; Kingfisher; Land Securities; Marks & Spencer; Saint-Gobain; The Crown Estate and Uponor.

Terri Wills, chief executive of the World GBC, said: “The days of ‘grey box retailers’ are numbered. A new breed of businesses is emerging which understands that better shopping environments lead to better experiences for consumers which, in turn, lead to better economics for retailers.

“This report is about empowering retailers to look within their own properties to understand and monetise how better, more sustainable physical environments can potentially drive profit, and in doing so, ultimately strengthens the business case for greener, healthier buildings.”


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