Christmas has been and gone. A time of celebration and goodwill, often accompanied by increases in eating, drinking and spending. If all has gone well this combination will have resulted in a lot of merriment, but unfortunately it will can also result in an estimated 3 million tonnes of waste.

Topical heat
Topical heat

It is estimated that up to 1 billion Christmas cards could end up in the bins across the UK, and combined with the all the wrapping paper, extra drink bottles, cans and containers, it is no wonder that overflowing dustbins and extra bags of rubbish are a common sight after in the New Year.

However it would appear that it is not just in our homes that waste needs to be minimised.

Recent news reports have shown that high street stores have been accused of an astonishing waste of energy and money after an investigation found that some of them are as hot as tropical holiday destinations.

A survey of the major chains on Oxford Street found the Topshop branch had a temperature of 80.9F or 27.2C.   That is more than ten degrees warmer than the ideal ambient shopping temperature of 64.4F or 18C, as recommended by the Chartered Institute for Building Services Engineers.  Other stores found with temperatures above 77F (25C) included Bodyshop, Debenhams, Esprit, HMV, Clinton Cards, Boots and Monsoon.

Why do the shops maintain such high temperatures in the winter?

According to Professor Ken Parsons, head of Loughborough University’s Human Thermal Environments Laboratory, one of the reasons stores choose to maintain the hot temperatures is because they may see it as a way of enticing potential customers in from the cold.

He also added: “It may be because the workers wish to wear light fashionable clothing or provide what is called ‘thermal pleasure’ to customers.  Thermal pleasure is a transient phenomenon felt when a person moves into a cold environment when too hot or into a warm environment when too cold. In the winter the first impression for the shopper who may be generally cold or have cold skin on the hands and face for example, will be the pleasure of moving to a warm and hence welcoming environment.”

But he warned: “After twenty minutes or so, this affect will wear off and unless clothing is reduced the customer may well become unpleasantly hot and even sticky.”

However it is not just the issue of an unpleasant shopping experience that needs to be considered.  With many stores cranking up the heating and yet leaving their doors wide open, a thought needs to be given to the millions of pounds being wasted, and also the damaging effects on the environment.

Jonathan Elliott, the managing director of Make it Cheaper, commented: “Retailers wanting to outdo each other in creating the most enticing Christmas shopping experiences are wasting huge amounts of energy.   Even in hard times, this is the stage of the year when retailers literally throw caution to the wind, no matter how Arctic it is, opening their doors – wide open in most cases – and crank up the heating.  Throw extra lights into the equation and extended opening hours, and you have exceptionally heavy business electricity consumption for the entire Christmas season.”

However, Tom Ironside, the British Retail Consortium’s business environment director, said: “Retailers want to minimise energy waste as it leads to environmental and financial costs. Individual shops make store temperature judgments based on a range of factors, including customer and staff comfort as well as product requirements.”

Yet, can such tropical temperature levels in stores really be justified?

Personally I would have to say no, however, this year I think I shall take a break from the traditional high street shopping experience and high temperatures, and perhaps try the online virtual oxford street shopping experience provided by Near.

Using the latest 3D video-game technology Near enables you to walk the streets, browse and buy from retailers, watch concerts and films and share information with your friends, all in a beautifully realised environment, and all from the comfort of your own home.

Not only will this mode of shopping save you time and travel costs, but you will also not have to endure the soaring store temperatures and hustle and bustle of the mass of New Year bargain shoppers!   Check it out here.

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