Could A Greener Retail Environment Boost Your Bottom Line?

New research published by The World Green Building Council (WGBC) certainly thinks so. Whether they’re addicted to shopping or retail haters, the physical environment of your store can play a large part in tempting customers to linger longer, and spend more, in store.

By drawing together key research into the impact of retail environments across the globe on the satisfaction of both retail customers and store staff, the study concludes that greener buildings often equate to happier customers and, therefore, greater revenue for physical retail spaces.

The study itself focuses on a broad definition of “green buildings” which encompasses the health and wellness of its occupants. Jonathan Laski, director of global projects & partnerships at the WGBC explains why this is an essential measure of a building’s success. “You can’t have a building that’s green and does not support the health and well-being of the people inside it”, Jonathan recently told BusinessGreen.

The study brings together a number of case studies which demonstrate how environmentally friendly stores and retail spaces often garner some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings.

A great example of this can be seem through retailer Marks & Spencer’s “Sustainable Learning Store”, which aimed to create the most environmentally friendly store possible for the brand in Sheffield, UK. Beginning in 2011, the store employed a number of green building strategies, including:

• Maximising daylight and LED bulbs to cut the use of lighting by 20%

• Rainwater harvesting to reduce water use by 30%

• A waste heating recovery system to ensure below-average energy consumption.

On top of these, the store also featured electric vehicle charge points, and real-time transport information to encourage customers to choose greener transit to and from the store itself.

Marks & Spencer have been closely monitoring the performance of the store since its inception, and have found that the store receives some of the highest customer satisfaction levels across its entire portfolio.

The WGBC also cites a 2012 study which compared the performance of 494 retail bank branches of the PNC Financial Services Group. To do this, the Group’s 52 LEED-certified branches were compared to the 442 non-certified branches to assess any sales uplift for the greener sites.

The LEED facilities were found to have opened 458 more consumer accounts and received more than $3mil more in consumer deposit balances every year than the non-certified branches. To add to this apparent boost in performance for the certified branches, utility costs per employees were $675 lower on average than in the uncertified branches.

How Can You Take Advantage Of The Benefits Of A Greener Store Environment?

While there are numerous examples of the benefits of green building strategies increasing customer satisfaction, Laski says that “one of the criticisms most often levelled at sustainability is that it is potentially expensive without necessarily delivering value, or that the benefits of environmental actions are not clear to the bottom line.”

With this in mind, the WGBC proposes a framework for retailers to take action and link environmental factors with the financial performance of a stores; a strategy it claims will add weight to the already burgeoning case for sustainability projects amongst the retail sector.

The framework is designed to encourage retailers to gather data across three main areas; the physical characteristics of a building, the employee and customer experience, and the store’s financial performance. By monitoring these areas, retailers can gain a better understanding of how they can improve the sustainability of their store.

Laski says that while the data, and resulting recommendations, may vary according to the type of retailer, there are some solid bets for popular store design. For example, considerations such as plentiful daylight and greenery both consistently deliver higher customer satisfaction across all types of shopping environment.

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