'Close the Door' is a nationally organised campaign aimed at persuading retailers to save energy by closing their doors in cold weather. It has achieved some success along the Gloucester Road but there is more work to be done there.
Maplin, with a branch on the Gloucester Road, is one of those nationally based shops whose present policy is to keep doors open. As a result of finding this out, Sustainable Bishopston, with Close the Door support, has sent the following letter to Maplin's CEO :
Dear Mr. Cleland,
'Close the Door' was very taken aback going in to the Maplin Gloucester Road Bristol branch last Friday to discover that it is an executive order for the shop doors to be kept open throughout the day during the cold winter weather.
If this is the case, we very strongly urge you to reconsider the order. For decades we have been warned that climate change, caused by our insatiable demand for burning fossil fuels, would cause the serious flooding that is now happening in the UK. Many of the more responsible members of the public are sitting up and taking notice, but I fear Maplin, which is wasting thousands of pounds heating up the street outside, is not amongst them.
We very strongly encourage you to look at the website for the Close The Door campaign (www.closethedoor.org.uk), which shows that:
- significant savings are made through keeping the door closed
- it is a myth closing the doors will cost the company money
- shops or businesses that close their doors have a responsible attitude toward energy conservation
- closed doors make customers comfortable
- shoplifting is reduced
- staff have healthier working conditions
- air pollution hazards for all shop users are reduced
I hope you will take the message of my email seriously, and I look forward to hearing from you about this important subject.
Here is the reply from Maplin:
Dear Mr Wills
Thank you for contacting Maplin Electronics.
Thank you very much for your correspondence the content of which we have read carefully and we have consulted in the wider field.
We have also visited the web site you suggest which has given us further food for thought.
All of us could do more to reduce bills and, in particular, make our homes more environmentally friendly. The same, I am sure, can be said for all work places.
There are some things we already do to reduce waste and to help protect our staff and the environment.
For example many retail establishments these days have electric doors that open as you approach or indeed walk past.
We have refrained from doing this as we believe that in itself is a waste of resource.
You will also notice that many stores have curtains of hot air that are very powerful placed at all entrances.
This too can be a waste and we pride ourselves in not “Blasting” every customer who walks in the door. The only heating in such places in a Maplin store are mild in comparison to others.
In extreme condition when the heating systems in our stores are straining the most, we do indeed close our doors.
The milder weather that we have suffered from that has brought us rain and wind has meant in many cases the heating systems in fact cut out considerably during the day as temperatures meet requirements more than we would normally experience at this time of year. Our protection of staff has had more to do with flooding and wind damage and making sure they are safe coming to work, all of which, I am sure you will agree, is more relevant just now.
There are always two sides to any argument and a structural engineer may well argue that a door opening in a very large space will have little overall effect on the temperature inside. Perhaps they may even argue they would need to have a door open both back and front and an air flow to have a significant effect. Then again I am even more certain there would be those with opposing views.
Perhaps you could lobby the government on behalf of retailers to get site surveys done in all work places for free, allowing considered judgements about the right way to go about protecting individual establishments, the environment and people. Having a one solution policy is always there to be argued with whereas more bespoke suggestions I am sure would be welcomed.
The dynamics of building are perhaps not as well understood as all of us would like to think; size, shape, volume, height, roof space, windows and so on all have a part to play and I would suggest most are so very different.
Your letter was food for thought and we will always contemplate what is right for the environment (which we do a huge amount to improve already in other spheres) and the needs of customers and staff.
Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to consider this matter. We will deliberate all of the known facts and make the right decisions. That does not mean will have our doors closed all year long; what we perhaps need to study more carefully is the point at which we should make the decision.
We leave this to our Stores and field teams to reflect upon. We will make sure we consult with them more thoroughly allowing them to make the right choice at the appropriate times.
Field Operations Manager, South
Sustainable Bishopston/Close the Door reply to the above letter:
Thanks very much for your detailed and thoughtful response and I am more than happy that you consider what I have written as food for thought.
I've copied a couple of colleagues local to the area from the Close the Door campaign who would be most encouraged by your response and very pleased to be able to offer support and information.
I think the real test of the effectiveness of closing the door is to know your energy bills, consumption and footfall figures, rather than rely on the thoughts of a structural engineer. Of course we ignore them at our peril, but in the energy conservation work I do with children, I find time and again engineers over supply schools with heat and under supply them with system control, leaving the institutions overheated and unable to do much about it or the bills they have to pay to cover it.
My hunch with automatic doors is that over time they are cheaper by a considerable amount, but quite pricey to install. For a school they're an expensive item, but perhaps less so for a reasonable sized business, and certainly over quite a short time much cheaper and less damaging than hot air curtains or open doors. I'm sure Close The Door would have helpful views on that, and of course any door company would tell you their installation costs.
I've given you a link below to an excellent interview with Jeannie Dawkins, one of the founders of the Close the Door campaign. Although at 50 minutes it is quite long, I can assure you that with the obvious interest you have shown, you would find it well worth taking the time to listen. She shows that Close the Doors is business friendly and uses evidence to answer questions and anxieties they have and talks about the sway that habit has in making important decisions. I hope by the end you will feel convinced of the need for Maplin to follow the lead of companies like John Lewis, Costa and Marks and Spencer and close its doors.
Jeannie's very clear in explaining the health related issues to both staff and customers caused by leaving the door open, to which I would have thought your Gloucester Road branch, located at a busy junction on a main thoroughfare, is particularly vulnerable. There are too many points she makes for me to summarise, but one telling question she asks is, do we leave our doors and windows open at home? Of course not. We pay our own energy bills and would mostly consider it insane wasting energy like this. Unfortunately for various reasons it's often difficult to get chain store boards, unlike independent retailers, in touch with this reality. As I've indicated some have grasped this nettle, and judging by your positive response, I would have thought Maplin could quite easily join them. Apart from the cost, environmental and health benefit, there is also a lot of positive publicity to be gained.
Here's the link, well done for your positive and very speedy reply, and I hope to hear again from you before too long.
'Close the Door' has also written to the Gloucester Road Business Improvement District (BID) advisor, pointing out that London based BIDs like the Baker Street BID are including 'Close the Door' in their discusions about how to improve the retail scene in their area. The email sent to George Grace reads:
You are probably very busy with the Gloucester Road BID business and not too concerned at the moment about the work that the 'Close the Door' campaign has been doing with the Gloucester Road retailers to try and persuade individual managers of shops to close their doors in cold weather.
However, we feel we have had some real success in persuading local shop keepers to save significant amounts on their energy bills (and not lose out on footfall as has been proved by research) by closing their doors so that huge amounts of heat aren't wasted in warming the high street rather than the shop. Many shops now bear a 'Close the Door' sticker on their closed front door to show their support.
Recent research has demonstrated that another negative aspect of not closing shop doors is the extra exposure to particulate diesel exhaust pollution that shop workers experience and the consequent health risks they face from that exposure.
If you can find the time to listen, you may find the following interview of interest:
In particular, as the Gloucester Road BID adviser, you might be interested at about 36 minutes and 45 seconds into the podcast, where Jeannie Dawkins from ‘Close the Door’ headquarters says: “ BIDs are influential about what happens and what sort of developments are going to go on [in high streets]. In the Baker Street BID there are some really exciting moves about reducing traffic and increasing pedestrian space…” She goes on to say that ‘Close the Doors’ has now been invited to be involved in the Baker Street BID discussions.
I do hope you will feel a 'Close the Door' policy is worth trying to persuade the 'non closers' among your Gloucester Road members to consider as a serious and indeed sensible one. It would be very pleasing to us if you could keep this issue on your agenda as you work towards (and when you hopefully achieve) BID status.
We at ‘Close the Door’ campaign shall be continuing to try and persuade (using a friendly approach and research based argument) those ‘reluctant’ Gloucester Road retailers, that the ‘Close the Door’ option is the only sensible one to take.