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Healthy retail places are a quick-win for retailers

So far in WorldGBC’s Better Places for People campaign, we’ve examined three building typologies: offices, retail and now over the next six months, residential.

In healthy offices, we have seen improvements in productivity with better air quality, and we can directly relate these productivity gains to an improvement of the bottom line of the builder, owner, and occupier of that office. We will soon see results from another study that examined the difference in productivity in a healthy green building and one that is just “green”.  But those productivity calculations are still contextual, hard to interpret for many people, and a change in the bottom line may take some time to trickle down.

In healthy residential, we are starting to see that higher rents and sales prices can be asked for homes that consider the health of the occupants. And indeed, as the last UKGBC report on Healthy Homes showed, in a survey supported by Saint-Gobain, 30% of people surveyed would pay more for a “healthy” home. But for rental or social housing, where costs are more indirect especially to the end user, it’s still difficult, albeit slowly becoming easier, to show that the benefits of healthy buildings to tenants and then governments outweigh the extra costs.

In healthy retail, however, the most important economic metrics used to determine success of a store, namely dwell time and sales, are easier to understand and calculate, and a change in those metrics can be noticed quickly. Indeed, it was shown by Path Intelligence that for every 1% increase in dwell time, there was a 1.3% in sales. That multiplier is key: the longer people stay, the more they buy.

So how do we get people to dwell? You have great indoor environment quality (IEQ), with daylighting, more plants, and better air quality, and you create better places!

Marks and Spencer’s Cheshire Oaks location saw high customer satisfaction and a 22% increase in employee satisfaction by enhancing the customer experience through better daylighting, better flow-through of air, and better materials. At their Ecclesall Road location, Marks & Spencer used existing data to find correlations between store environments and worker/customer experiences, a novel and low-cost way to determine how current operations stack up when considering the health and wellbeing of the people who occupy that space.

TD Bank used IWBI’s WELL Retail Pilot in 2015 to build a healthy environment for their employees and customers.  By using materials with little to no VOCs, finding ways to communicate air quality publically, and using a green wall and other plants, TD was able to create a better retail place for people. The WELL Retail Pilot was designed in order to allow for easy scale-up, so certification is possible across a wide portfolio of similar properties which is very important with large retail companies.

Higher end clothiers are starting to offer more amenities in their stores too. Marks and Spencer has long used in-store restaurants to improve dwell time. Club Monaco’s flagship location in Yorkville in Toronto has had a mini market outside its store for two years which includes much improved seating, a wall of inviting plants and shrubbery which acted as a barrier from the busy thoroughfare, a coffee shop, bakery and flower shop. The Club Monaco CEO, John Mehas, noted that it was meant to show people the breadth of the Club Monaco brand, but undoubtedly it’s also meant to attract more people. They created a better place for people as a means to attract more people to their store. It’s scalable too: they recently renovated their flagship shop in Montreal and added a coffee shop and have since added markets in new locations in London and Hong Kong. While sales figures were not available, the expansion of the idea proves that this approach works and is benefitting the company.

There are undoubtedly a lot of stories where creating better retail places for people lead to higher dwell times which lead to enhanced retail sales, but it’s sometimes difficult to get hard numbers on this, for very acceptable competitive reasons. Nonetheless, we’d love to you hear from you! Are you a retail company or retail developer that is creating a healthy, happy space or a better place for customers? Email us and we can tell your better places for people story.

Colin Powell is Project Manager for Better Places for People.