Seattle, WA (May 29, 2013) – Kathleen L. Wolf, PhD, a research social scientist at the University of Washington, Seattle, recently summed up recent research on the human dimension of urban forests and the impact of trees in downtown business districts. The takeaway: Trees and greenspace affect the appeal of a business district and directly impact consumer buying behavior. It pays for businesses to invest in trees as the physical qualities of a shopping setting can directly affect sales.
While studies have focused on the shopping environment inside a store, consumers are influenced before they enter a store. First impressions about a business start at the curb and sidewalk. The character and quality of a streetscape can affect the appeal of a business district and visitors’ buying behavior.
Recent studies assessed how trees influence shoppers’ perceptions in various retail settings, from the central business districts within several large cities to smaller main street malls. The findings were remarkably consistent.
When comparing similar places, some having trees and some not, trees elicited positive reactions from customers. Researchers used surveys to test responses and were careful to present images of settings having the same level of building care and street tidiness.
Customers were also willing to pay more for products and services, by up to 9% in the smaller communities and up to 12% more in districts within larger cities. People even claimed that they’d pay more for parking.
Planning, planting, and the maintenance of trees are real costs. But, findings suggest that those expenses may be offset by the additional revenues they help bring in.
Surveys of business people showed that they generally rated the value of tree benefits lower than shoppers do, suggesting some merchants may be unaware of how trees affect consumer behavior.
Local businesspeople can and should be champions for trees. The effect trees have on the customer experience is just one more example of how trees tap into the deep appreciation that many people feel for nature and its numerous benefits.