The ultimate business energy efficiency guide for retail

14 February 2017

While energy costs represent a small percentage of turnover for retail businesses, they still have a big impact on profit margins. By making simple changes to how your retail business manages its energy consumption, you could see real benefit to your bottom line.

According to the Carbon Trust, a 20% cut in energy costs represents the same profit savings as a 5% increase in sales. This means that you could improve your profit margin simply by reducing your energy costs.

Monetary benefits aren’t the only reason retail businesses should look to reduce their energy consumption. Customers are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues relating to climate change, with some even choosing retailers based on their environmental credentials. As such, improving the energy efficiency of your business will enhance your corporate reputation, and could even lead to an increase in sales and brand interest.  

At Gazprom Energy, we help thousands of single and multi-site retailers manage their business energy requirements. In this guide, we share practical tips and knowledge on some of the simple things retail businesses can do to reduce their energy costs, including opportunities for energy saving and guidance on good energy management.

Energy saving opportunities for retail businesses

Retail is one of the UK’s most diverse sectors, so it goes without saying that energy use will vary according to the type of store. For example, energy costs are likely to be lower for clothing retailers as they are food retailers, as they don’t rely on refrigeration equipment.

That said, there are a few key areas in which most retail businesses could better manage energy consumption, including lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling. Here, we offer guidance on how businesses can take advantage of energy saving opportunities in these areas.

Lighting 

Retailers rely on bright and attractive lighting to bring customers through their doors and maximise sales, so it’s small wonder that lighting accounts for their biggest energy expense. There are, however, several ways in which retailers can reduce the energy impact of lighting whilst retaining the same level of illumination, and we’ve listed these below.  

Invest in low energy lighting

If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to invest in the latest low-energy lighting technology. There are now several different bulb types which offer the same high level of output as standard bulbs for a fraction of the energy consumption, so retailers can gain adequate lighting whilst making energy savings.

low enegry lighting

Within retail stores, sales areas generally require a high level of light, whilst other areas (staff-only areas etc.) do not. However, it is no longer necessary to install high-energy bulbs in areas which require a lot of light. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) offer similar output to traditional tungsten bulbs whilst using 20% of the energy, and last up to eight times longer, so you won’t need to replace them as often.  

We’d also recommend replacing all fluorescent tube lamps with tri-phosphor-coated alternatives. These bulbs not only provide a more natural, brighter and attractive light, they’re also more energy efficient, and will continue delivering the same amount of output throughout their entire lifespan.  

Replace outdated light fittings

Bulbs aren’t the only thing to blame for inefficient lighting; the fittings themselves can have an impact on energy consumption, so it’s vital they’re inspected, maintained and, if necessary, replaced at regular intervals.  

Should you need to replace existing light fittings, always consult a qualified technician and specify a high-frequency replacement. High-frequency light fittings are not only more energy efficient, they can reduce heat output, electricity hum and light flicker — creating a more attractive and welcoming environment for customers and staff.

Install occupancy sensors in staff areas

Store rooms, offices and other staff-only areas are probably only occupied for a few hours each day, so this is a great place to save energy on lighting. By installing occupancy sensors in staff areas, you can be sure that lights are only switched on when someone’s in the room, making it easier to manage and reduce energy waste. Other areas which are suitable for occupancy sensors in retail spaces include stockrooms, meeting rooms, and customer toilets.

Label all light switches

One simple way to reduce energy waste in a retail environment is to label light switches, so that new and existing members of staff aren’t tempted to flick every switch without considering if it’s needed. This is particularly useful in large stockrooms, where lighting is usually zoned and staff only need to access a specific area.

retail energy efficiency lighting maintenance

Routine maintenance

It’s essential that lighting rigs are routinely maintained to ensure they continue operating at an efficient level. According to the Carbon Trust, lights that aren’t properly maintained can reduce lighting levels by up to 30% a year, and have a big impact on energy efficiency. By cleaning, testing and replacing bulbs and fittings regularly, you can ensure your shop lighting continues to offer the best combination of value and performance. 

Heating 

After lighting, heating is among the biggest energy outlays for retail businesses, with the importance of keeping customers and staff comfortable paramount. This can have a big impact on energy consumption, with heating accounting for around a third of energy use in retail premises. Add to this the fact that a lot of heat energy is wasted through open doors and windows, and there are a number of opportunities to save on heating bills.

Consider the temperature outside 

Store managers may feel they are doing customers a favour by turning up the thermostat in the winter months, but given that most people will be wearing warmer clothing to combat the cold outdoor temperatures, this is ill-advised and could lead to discomfort. Always consider what the temperature is like outside before turning up the heat, as every degree higher or lower accounts for around 8% of your total heating bill.

However, it’s also important to take the comfort of staff into consideration when reducing the temperature. Unlike customers, members of staff will probably be wearing indoor clothing like t-shirts, shirts and blouses, so it’s vital that you consider their working conditions before dialling the thermostat down too low. 

Ditch the open door policy

Many retailers leave their doors open to entice customers inside, but this can have a huge impact on energy wastage and consumption. When doors are left ajar, warm air can escape and cold air is allowed in, meaning the heating system will rarely switch off — leading to a massive amount of wasted energy.

While closing your doors might not sound like the ideal solution, there are ways to get around the issue:

  • Install automatic doors, which open when a customer is trying to gain access to the store.
  • Install a revolving door, which allows customers to enter freely whilst keeping most of the heat inside.
  • Create a ‘draught lobby’, an area directly inside the store, which reduces the amount of cold air allowed to enter the building whilst still allowing you to have your doors open.
  • Keep your doors closed, but make the shop appear open and welcoming from the outside. 

Set up temperature zones and timers

Retail outlets have two distinct time zones — one when the shop is open to the public and the other when staff are the only people in the building. This means, you should set up individual time profiles that work around your store’s opening times, ensuring that no energy is wasted when the majority of the store is empty.  

If your shop is large, it’s also a good idea to set up individual heating zones which allow you to control the temperature of different parts of the shop at any one time. For instance, the front area of the shop closest to the doors should be cooler, reducing heat and energy waste, whereas areas such as the tills (where staff are likely to be working) and customer changing rooms should be kept at a warmer temperature. The flexibility to control the temperature in different parts of a retail premises is a great way to shave money off your overall heating bill.

Cooling and ventilation 

Heating a retail space is one thing, but it also costs a great deal to ensure it’s properly cooled and ventilated. Cooling and ventilation are the third biggest energy expenses for retail businesses, particularly for large stores whose temperature needs to be properly managed and maintained. By making a few simple changes, it’s possible to reduce the cost of cooling and ventilating your business premises — here are a few things to try.

Maintain system components 

Ventilation systems in busy stores and shopping centres can become dirty and clogged incredibly quickly, reducing the efficiency of the system and leading to wasted energy. By adhering to a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule, you can keep air ducts, fans and other cooling system components free from dirt and grime, and reduce the likelihood of a mechanical fault. The performance of the ventilation system should be checked at regular intervals, to ensure no further maintenance is required.

Make use of natural ventilation

During the spring and summer months, it can pay to switch off your ventilation and heating system and let the natural ventilation from outside keep your premises cool. By keeping doors and windows ajar, you’ll create a natural airflow, allowing the interior air to keep cool and fresh. However, before opening any doors and windows on your premises, make sure you consider the security implications.

 Don’t allow the heating and cooling system to operate at the same time 

One of the easiest ways to waste energy in a retail environment is to allow both the heating and ventilation systems to operate at the same time. This occurs when the systems are set at the incorrect temperature points, and can be avoided by setting up a ‘dead band’ on the thermostat. This is when a gap is created between the temperatures at which each system can switch on and off. For example, when the temperature reaches 19°C the heating should switch off, and the cooling system should come on at around 24°C.  

Minimise the cooling load

Direct sunlight, powerful lighting and other electrical appliances (e.g. refrigeration units) can place additional strain on an internal cooling system, this is known as the cooling load. To avoid a high cooling load hampering the efficiency of the ventilation system, consider partitioning off windows with displays which block out direct sunlight, replace all traditional light bulbs with CFL alternatives, and make sure that appliances are operating as efficiently as possible to reduce heat generation.

Energy management for retail businesses 

Half the battle in reducing energy costs in a retail environment is passing the importance of energy efficiency on to staff, ensuring that they’re fully on board with your energy saving plans and targets. Here, we provide a few ideas on the strategies you can implement to encourage better energy management within a retail business.

 retail worker saving energy

  • Involve staff in the energy reduction process: With little-to-no knowledge of the business’ energy costs, staff are unlikely to take an active role in helping you reduce energy consumption. That’s why it’s important to include all staff in the process, ensuring they’re made aware of all the benefits of appropriate energy management and governance. One of the best ways to encourage and reinforce energy efficient working practices is to incentivise members of staff, either with a giveaway, competition or campaign. This provides a sense of ownership over energy management practices, and will make it much more likely that you’ll hit energy reduction targets.
  • Carry out regular housekeeping walkarounds: Each month, take time to walk around your business and keep a record of any areas which you believe could present opportunities for energy saving. Look out for simple things like lights being left on, windows left open and doors left ajar, as well as indications that maintenance may be required (flickering light bulbs, poor ventilation etc.), and raise these issues with your staff so they can be improved in the future.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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