The past year has seen retailers overcome some tough challenges, dealing with panic-buying and supply chain issues as well as lockdown. The resilience, hard work and strategic thinking of the retail sector has helped the UK survive an unprecedented year.

Unfortunately, the even bigger challenge of climate change hasn’t gone away, and this means that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is more important than ever. As shops cautiously reopen, now is a good time for retailers to look at improving their energy efficiency. Here are five things to look at.

1. Lighting

70% of the energy used on lighting in the UK is for commercial use, and lighting plays a key role in the retail sector: attracting customers, making products look appealing, security and more. But it also represents huge potential for improved energy efficiency. For example:

  • Upgrade to more efficient forms of lighting, such as LEDs. This can reduce lighting energy costs by 70%, according to the Carbon Trust.
  • Use timers so that shop-floor lighting is only on during opening hours.
  • Use occupancy sensors for areas that aren’t in constant use, such as stockrooms, corridors and toilets.
  • For outdoor areas such as car parks, consider “dusk to dawn” photocell lighting that can detect levels of natural light and only comes on when it’s dark. This means there is no need for timers – and you won’t have to do anything when the clocks change!

2. Chillers

Would you buy a fridge for your home that didn’t have a door? The idea is absurd, yet a surprising number of shops still operate chilled cabinets without doors. This may be because of a misconception that doors are a barrier to sales, but in reality the reverse is true; the research shows that glass doors on chiller cabinets actually improve sales, perhaps because it makes the chilled aisle more comfortable to spend time in. 

This is an area where big savings can be made very easily. One report found that installing doors on supermarket fridges across Europe could save an amount of energy equivalent to that used by every home in Poland put together. And the British public want it: one petition to ban open fridges and freezers in the UK gained half a million signatures.

3. Heating

When you are selecting an indoor temperature for the winter, think about the weather outside: people who are wrapped up warm don’t necessarily want to step into tropical temperatures. Lowering the heating by just a degree or two could cut the annual energy consumption of your business by over 5%. If you are following the public health advice to keep doors and windows open for ventilation, the potential for heat loss is even greater and you will save even more by keeping the shop less warm.

To save as much energy as possible on heating, you should also:

  • Check the insulation of the boiler, pipes and any hot-water tanks, and get the boiler serviced regularly.
  • When it’s time to upgrade your heating system, consider installing a ground-source heat pump. These are significantly more energy-efficient than electric heating and require less maintenance than a conventional gas boiler.
  • As with lighting, set timers to ensure that the shop floor is only heated when it is in use. You may be able to switch off heaters up to an hour before closing with no noticeable effect on customers.

4. Cooling

As with heating in winter, remember that your customers are just coming in from outside. If they’re dressed lightly for summer, they don’t need your store to feel like the Arctic. In the average British summer, just a degree or two colder than outside will still feel pleasantly cool. You may be able to achieve this through the use of shade and ventilation, without needing to burn energy on chilling the air.

For maximum efficiency of your cooling system, ensure that components such as fans and air ducts are kept clean. You should also reduce the need for cooling by ensuring that your lighting and fridges aren’t generating unnecessary heat.

5. Best practice

Staff are an untapped resource for any retail business that wants to become more energy efficient. They can help you cut energy use by changing their day-to-day behaviour. For example:

  • Ensuring that lighting, heating and anything else that isn’t on a timer is switched off outside opening hours.
  • Turning off lights for areas that aren’t in use, such as stockrooms.
  • Shutting chiller doors when customers inevitably leave them open.
  • Wearing warmer clothing for indoor tasks that don’t require much movement, such as till duty, so they will be comfortable in lower temperatures.
  • Helping managers to identify potential energy loss issues such as draughty windows and poor boiler insulation.

Of course, even the most energy-efficient retailers still consume some electricity. But you can reduce the climate impact of this by choosing a truly green supplier like Good Energy, one which buys its energy directly from renewable generators. That way you know that the energy you do use isn’t contributing to climate catastrophe.

If you’re not sure how your retail business could reduce energy wastage, why not try our free Energy Health Check? Simply go online and answer a few simple questions as your first step to getting tailored energy management advice. Making your retail space as energy efficient as possible will cut running costs, make the working environment more pleasant for employees and help your business prepare for whatever the rest of 2021 has in store.