Using air conditioning effectively in shops and retail outlets

With temperatures already soaring in the UK, many shops and retailers will be wondering whether we are in store for another summer of 06. This renowned year saw recorded temperatures as high as 97.7oF in Wisley, Surrey and the two month period during June and July has gone down on record as the hottest summer since records began over 200 years ago.

If New York is anything of an example to the rest of the world, then retailers can benefit from periods of excessive heat, as consumers seek creative ways to escape the temperatures and resort to some retail therapy on their local high street and out of town retail parks.

And therein lies the issue. Consumers now expect to enjoy their shopping experiences in cool environments and in particular, the air curtain was designed to keep cool air in the stores and dowse the shopper in a refreshing wave as they enter a store.

However, it is estimated that the UKs high street stores waste 300million a year in energy costs to keep shoppers cool in summer and warm in winter, so how can retail bosses align this excessive waste with the demands of their consumers? Perhaps we can learn from our counterparts over the pond, given that they deal with a heat wave on an annual basis?

1. Have your existing, in-built air conditioning serviced well ahead of summer to make sure it is running efficiently. And if you are concerned about any mini-heat waves during downtime, then consider hiring portable air conditioning to cover the intervening period.

2. Have an emergency back-up plan in place if your air conditioning breaks down. Portable air conditioning companies can supply units that replicate the existing system and they will be able to act most efficiently if you put a contingency plan in place before an emergency strikes.

3. Plan ahead for busy periods within the retail outlet: if you are planning a sale, a new range or something similar you may choose to hire in portable air conditioning as extra capacity for key areas of the store, such as the changing rooms and till areas etc.

4. It is also common sense to have a contingency plan in place if temperatures spiral so high that your shop or retail outlet requires additional air conditioning.

5. When your air conditioning is in use – make sure you use it effectively by keeping doors and windows closed. It is a retail myth that propping the doors open may entice more consumers in to a shop. In fact New York has passed legislation actually banning many stores from leaving their doors open during the summer months. This not only helps reduce your carbon footprint and greenhouse emissions but will also reduce your energy bill. It has been estimated that stores that leave doors open waste around 20-25% of the air conditioning they produce.

6. Set the thermostat to a reasonable temperature. The Carbon Trust recommends that buildings do not need to dip below a temperature of 24 degrees Celsius but in the summer of 2010, some outlets were found to set their indoor temperature as much as 8 degrees less than outside, which is unnecessary.

7. Talk to employees about the most suitable temperature in your shop or retail outlet. If they are forced in to wearing their winter woollies to work during the summer months, then the air conditioning settings need a rethink.

When a heat wave hits, it can be tempting to hire the largest available air conditioning unit. However, it is always worth seeking guidance on the type and size of system for individual circumstances to both maximise the effective removal of hot air and avoid unnecessary operating costs. In particular, within a retail setting, it is necessary to consider the health and safety aspects of hiring portable air conditioning to ensure there is a suitable location away from the main areas of highest footfall.

Whilst some shoppers may momentarily appear to enjoy being engulfed in cool air, increasing numbers of consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious and appreciate the need for shops to exercise restraint when temperatures start to rise.

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