Do trees make you spend more?

by | Nov 13, 2015 | Uncategorized

On my last trip to Vancouver, I visited the new McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Mall and was awestruck by the elaborate architecture, streetscape decorations, and trees. I wondered whether the trees had a payback to the developers. That is, did the trees affect retail spending behaviour? This led me to a study which shows that people are willing to spend 9%-12% more at stores on streets that have trees [1].

To conduct the study, survey participants were given a set of pictures. There were two pictures for every retail type: one that had trees and another that did not. Participants rated every picture and also indicated how much they are willing to pay for a list of goods, in dollar value.

Using this study has its difficulties since there is no information on the density of trees. The study gives no information on how many trees we need to plant to obtain the uplift in retail sales. Are 10 enough? Would it need to be 100? Does too many trees reduce retail spending? While indicative, there aren’t enough studies to properly quantify this benefit.

Trees play other roles around retail centers. For instance, if there’s a tree present, you might feel less stressed and less fatigue [2]. This can benefit both customers and workers.

Trees

Studies show that ­a tree canopy can create a sense of place and trees do encourage consumers to spend more time at a retail space [3], but this effect is dependent on the reason for, and type of shopping trip. While the stress reducing, place-making and lingering effect of trees can be found in the literature, like the impact on retail sales, the evidence is scant. AutoCASE accounts for the property value uplift from trees, as well as the air quality and carbon sequestration benefits of trees. We also account for the fact that a new tree may not reap as many benefits as a fully-grown tree, but over time, as the tree grows, it will filter the air and water – improving human health. In future versions we’ll be including species specific benefits as well as monitoring the literature to see if more studies quantify the additional benefits of trees in retail locations.

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