Monday, 20 September 2021

Shops that are superheated

SHOPS in Henley have been accused of wasting energy by keeping their doors open while “superheating” their premises.

SHOPS in Henley have been accused of wasting energy by keeping their doors open while “superheating” their premises.

Veronica Leeke, a certified thermographer, visited the town on one day last month and found that several national chain stores had their doors open even though it was below freezing outside.

Using her £7,200 thermal imaging camera, she was able to record the internal temperatures of the stores and found that some were as warm as 20.5C.

She is concerned about the environmental impact of the stores’ actions and that the costs of using so much energy will be passed on to their customers.

Mrs Leeke, 56, who runs a business called The Heat Loss Detector, which identifies draughts, cold damp areas and inadequate insulation, said:There was a cold snap in January and I started to notice that in Reading shops were still keeping their doors open, so thought I’d take the camera out and see what was happening further afield.”

She decided to visit Henley as one the three major shopping destinations in the area. She came in the late afternoon on January 19 when the outdoor temperature was between -1.3C and -2C.

She observed 30 businesses in Bell Street, Hart Street, Duke Street and Market Place and recorded which ones didn’t shut their doors. Seven had open doors — White Stuff, Joules, M&Co, Paperchase, Clarks, Waitrose and the Catherine Wheel pub — but temperatures inside the premises ranged from 15.5C to 20.5C.

Mrs Leeke said: “That is a big differential. That’s heat that’s lost out of the shops which somebody along the line is going to have to pay for.

“I started off in Bell Street and straight away could see the familiar national chains all open.

“In Hart Street and Market Place most of the doors were shut but most of those were the independent shops or estate agents and banks. They were all closed, I imagine, for security.”

She measuring temperatures inside the businesses from outside by focusing on one spot.

Mrs Leeke said: “Unfortunately, some Henley shops were still found to be operating an open door policy. They were mainly national chains, including White Stuff, which had the highest recorded interior temperature of 20.5C, and, most surprisingly, the Catherine Wheel, whose clientele would surely expect a cosy and draught-free environment in which to relax and eat.

“I was particularly disappointed to see one of the sets of sliding doors at the entrance to Waitrose were permanently open at a time when the external temperature was below freezing, although the temperature just inside this entrance, at 15.5C, was not particularly high.

“It was reassuring to find that about three-quarters of the shops kept their doors closed in such extreme temperatures and many of these were small local businesses, such as the Bell Bookshop, Barbara Easton and Facy.

“These independent shops are still thriving in Henley so there seems to be no excuse. Others doing so, including some national chains, were a supermarket, chemist, newsagent, banks and building societies, travel agents, cafés and a health food store. It was particularly pleasing to see some fashion, accessories and shoe stores keeping their doors closed.

“It begs the question as to whether these Henley premises are any less patronised by shoppers than those fashion shops whose interiors were heated to high temperatures while their doors were kept wide open. If they have their doors closed they are saving on heating bills and they are not passing the cost on to the customer.”

Mrs Leeke, who lives in Marchwood Avenue, Emmer Green, carried out the same experiment in Broad Street, Reading, and in Marlow high street and recorded similar results.

She said: “I am seeing such unnecessary and easily preventable wastage in our town centres. If we are to be serious about wanting to save our energy resources and combat climate change we cannot let retail businesses carry on operating this open door policy of heating their premises to high temperatures.”

Mrs Leeke, who qualified as a thermographer in 2014 having previously worked as a chemist in the aerospace industry, said she had a “semi-positive” view of Henley busisnesses but admitted there was room for improvement.

She said: “The microclimates we’re finding in these towns and cities are not helping but also everybody should be concerned about wastage, certainly of money. A superheated environment is not the best policy and that, combined with an open door, seems crazy.”

Justin Bowles, a member of environmental campaign group Henley in Transition, said he was shocked at the number of stores found to have open doors, especially as most were part of national chains. He said: “I would have thought that the chains would be better because they have environmental policies and audits and maybe the smaller shops don’t think about it so much but it seems to be the other way round.

“I think it’s poor use of resources just allowing energy to go out into the street and be wasted.

“From a business perspective shopowners are basically allowing money to go straight out the door.

“If they had automatic doors, or doors that swing they would lose less energy, it would be better for the environment and they would save money — what’s not to like?

“I think one open door is too high from an environmental perspective unless there are some sort of access issues.

“With modern technology you can have sensors to allow doors to open when people approach.

“I’m very surprised that a company like Waitrose, which has a good reputation for being a good citizen and doing good in the community, has an open door and is not being environmentally aware.”

A spokeswoman for White Stuff said: “The Henley shop has an air curtain at the doors to prevent heat escaping from the shop and causing the issue you have brought to light.

“As a clothing shop, our environments have to be temperature controlled to allow customers to remove and try on clothes in a comfortable environment. Many other retailers will not be required to meet this need.

“However, as temperature in our shops is controlled locally, we will review the management of all equipment, including air curtains, to ensure all temperature gauges are being used efficiently to minimise energy consumption.” A spokesman for Wetherspoon, which owns the Catherine Wheel, said: “We always like to open our doors in order to attract customers into our pub and at the same time offer some fresh air to those in the pub who want it.”

An M&Co spokeswoman said the company had a closed door policy which provided guidance for store managers.

She said: “This policy was developed to preserve the optimum trading environment in terms of customer convenience and staff/customer thermal comfort as well as reducing energy consumption and our impact on the environment.

“We have invested substantially in the most energy efficient air conditioning systems, controls and monitoring systems and continue to improve our energy efficiency.”

A Waitrose spokeswoman said: “Customers at our Henley branch use automatic doors to enter and exit which maximises the heat contained within the shop and we are not aware of these having been left open. If customers do see a door left open we would ask them to alert a member of staff.’

A Clarks spokesman said: “We continuously assess our policies and practices, having previously trialled a closed door policy as part of our energy efficiency programme. Currently store managers have the discretion whether to opt for open or closed doors.”

“In addition, Clarks has installed air curtains in this and many of our stores, helping to retain heat while the doors are open and improve the store’s energy efficiency.”

Joules refused to comment and Paperchase did not respond to a request for comment.

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