Smart Energy Management Trends for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers
Commercial retail is a unique and rapidly changing space. With the rise of online shopping, retailers are creatively adapting to improve the experience of being in a physical store. Strategies like experiential retail make shopping a personalized and engaging experience instead of a simple transaction.
Retailers are also providing customers with a more tech-friendly brick-and-mortar shopping experience in response to online competitors – the prevalence of self-serve check-out stations being just one example.
Other tech-driven strategies are being used to improve operations. Smart energy management is of growing interest to retailers seeking to cut costs, and while many of these strategies don’t have a direct impact on the shopping experience, the upgrades ultimately benefit customers. Savings accumulated from strategic energy management are significant and can be used to improve operations or be invested in other areas. Energy is the fourth largest in-store operating cost for U.S. retailers, and decreasing energy costs by 20% can have the same bottom line impact as a 5% sales increase.
Communicating through the cloud
Cloud-based software is becoming increasingly popular – from smart devices for schedule-based plug load shutdown to integrated data collection platforms. Removing paper and clipboards from the energy management process makes it accessible and efficient for time- and resource-strapped facility managers. Of course, as cloud use continues to grow, new challenges arise.
Security is a concern for many, and software not only has to be optimized for top performance but also ensure protection against any potential threats. Congress is even paying attention to this need, most notably in recent legislation introduced this summer requiring baseline safety features for Internet of Things (IoT) devices at federal facilities.
Another emerging trend in retail efficiency is automated demand response (ADR), a utility-commercial partnership that capitalizes on IoT solutions to effortlessly shift resources for cost savings on both sides of the meter. Utilities have worked with select smart energy management companies to further ADR programs and participation from retailers, helping them automatically cut back during times of peak demand, which adds to the easy savings that already come from such devices. These types of programs are especially helpful for stores with set operation hours, providing resource control beyond scheduled store shutdown times.
ADR partnerships also benefit the larger community by stabilizing the grid for another changing industry: utilities. Because of this, utilities sometimes even offer monetary incentives through rebates and bill incentives for businesses that participate in ADR programs.
The frequency and duration of major outages are on the rise, and power problems are estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $150 billion annually. If U.S. businesses were to fully embrace ADR, the nation’s peak load in 2019 could be reduced by as much as 150 GW over 2009, according to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report. Both utilities and businesses have an incentive to work together through ADR programs.
Consumers are increasingly looking to brands and retailers to adopt more sustainable practices. A recent Unilever study found one-third of customers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. The highly coveted millennial market lists green packaging as a top priority, resulting from the increasing importance placed on social responsibility. The greenhouse gas reductions from energy cuts shine bright in a company sustainability report. If all U.S. commercial and industrial buildings improved their energy efficiency by 10 percent, the environmental benefits would be equal to removing emissions from about 49 million vehicles – or about 19% of all registered highway vehicles in the U.S.
Smart energy management is a clear path in an evolving landscape for retailers to benefit their bottom line and benefit the planet.
James McPhail is CEO of Zen Ecosystems, which provides intelligent energy management solutions to businesses and consumers. Zen HQ is an energy management system designed for the unique needs of businesses and utilities to provide insights and control over multisite commercial energy usage with a fast payback.
Upscale furniture retailer in Dallas opening
Design Within Reach has unveiled its new location at NorthPark Center in Dallas.
At nearly 13,500 sq. ft., the space is three times the size of the previous temporary space the company occupied at the center. The retailer partnered with New York-based architecture firm DFA to bring the new store to life.
Unique to this location is the "Park House," developed in consultation with Dallas-based firm Droese Raney Architecture. An expanded suite of graciously luxurious rooms, it uses native materials and architecture that draws on local traditions to evoke the setting of a modern North Texas home.
Additional features of the new Design Within Reach include:
• Thirty fully realized room vignettes;
• A hanging installation made up of hundreds of pendant lightsglows overhead at the Studio entrance;
• Swatch Wall: A 30-ft.-long material and color spectrum represented by hundreds of wall-mounted, upholstered tiles offers a glimpse of the more than 3,000 custom options;
• Outdoor Collections: An expanded assortment of outdoor furniture featuring classic pieces and DWR exclusive outdoor collections, and
• Displays of office solutions for home and business.
Home furnishings giant expanding out West
Ikea is looking to expand its presence in Arizona.
The home furnishings retailer plans to open a store in Glendale, Arizona. It would be the company's second location in the state.
Pending approvals, construction of Ikea Glendale could begin in fall 2018 with an opening in spring 2020. The 348,000-sq.-ft. proposed store would be located six miles northwest of downtown Phoenix. The retailer said it will evaluate potential on-site power generation to complement its current U.S. renewable energy presence at nearly 90% of its U.S. locations.
Ikea currently operates 44 stores in the U.S.
“We are thrilled with the reception afforded us after entering Arizona nearly 13 years ago, so we are excited about submitting plans for Ikea Glendale to extend our Phoenix-area reach,” said Lars Petersson, Ikea U.S. president. “This proposed Glendale store would complement our Phoenix-area presence established in Tempe and bring the unique family-friendly shopping experience closer to customers in the West Valley and beyond.”