Green Marketing: Light Up Sales

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“Green marketing” usually refers to using an environmental pitch to sell a product. A car creates less pollution, a paper product is made from recycled content, and so on. Results of appealing to environmental sentiment have been mixed. On one hand, the Toyota Prius has sold better than would be justified purely by the economics of the premium-priced vehicle.

On the other hand, many people aren’t willing to suffer even a minor inconvenience in the name of the environment, as shown by the hotel towel experiment I described in Green Marketing Doesn’t Work. Beyond overt green marketing, though, some environmentally sound practices are simply good for business. One study shows that changing the retail lighting environment can be good for the environment AND boost sales:

We analyzed data on the sales performance of a chain retailer that operates a set of nearly identical stores. The analysis included 108 stores, where two thirds of the stores have skylighting and one third do not. The design and operation of
all the store sites is remarkably uniform, with the exception of the presence of skylights in some. The electric lighting was primarily fluorescent. Daylight from the skylights often provided more than two-to-three times the target illumination levels. Photo-sensor controls turned off some of the fluorescent lights when daylight levels exceeded target illumination…

Skylights were found to be positively and significantly correlated to higher sales. All other things being equal, an average non-skylit store in the chain would likely have 40% higher sales with the addition of skylights, with a probable range between 31% and 49%. This was found with 99% statistical certainty. [From a Pacific Gas & Electric study: Skylighting and Retail Sales – An Investigation into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance.]

A predicted 40% sales boost from letting the sunshine in (and cutting electricity consumption in the process) is quite amazing. While I’d want to look at the details of that study in greater depth before tearing up ceilings in hundreds of stores, it is indeed intriguing that some combination of the brightness and color spectrum of the lighting apparently had a huge impact on consumer behavior. If other studies don’t contradict these findings, the desirable duo of energy savings and green appeal would make more use of daylight in retail environments an attractive proposition indeed.

One grocery chain is putting skylighting and other green features to the test. According to Harris Teeter Opens “Greenest” Grocery on East Coast in Crozet by Allie Pesch, that grocer opened a store in 2009 that combines huge skylights with other green practices such as using recycled construction materials and incorporating highly efficient refrigeration systems.

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