Department Store Energy Consumption

The Astonishing Energy Consumption Behind Your Favourite Department Stores

Monday 30th Oct 2023 |

In the bustling world of retail, department stores have been a cornerstone of consumer culture for decades. They make availalbe an extensive array of products, from fashion to electronics, all under one roof. 

However, many shoppers may not realize the significant energy consumption and environmental impact of these retail giants. 

In this article, we delve into the astonishing energy consumption behind your favourite department stores, shedding light on the environmental implications of our shopping habits. You may be curious to learn how much department stores spend on energy

Energy at the Heart of Retail

Department stores are synonymous with brightly lit, air-conditioned, and well-organized spaces. While contributing to an enjoyable shopping experience, these features come at a considerable cost in terms of energy consumption.

Illuminating Insights

Lighting is essential in a department store to showcase products and create an inviting ambience. The extensive use of artificial lighting, often running for long hours each day, consumes substantial electricity. 

Energy-efficient lighting technologies have made their way into many stores, but a majority still rely on conventional, power-hungry lighting systems. It is helpful to refer to the Energy Saving Trust for some insider information on reducing energy consumption in department stores. 

Climate Control Conundrum

Maintaining a comfortable shopping environment, regardless of the weather outside, necessitates round-the-clock climate control. Heating and air conditioning demand a continuous energy supply. The challenge is even greater in larger department stores due to the vast spaces that need to be regulated.

The Hidden Energy Guzzlers

Beyond the obvious factors like lighting and climate control, several other aspects of department stores play a pivotal role in their astonishing energy consumption. These hidden energy guzzlers, often unnoticed by shoppers, further underscore the environmental challenges associated with the retail industry.

Some examples include:

  • Refrigeration Systems: Department stores, particularly those with a grocery section, rely heavily on refrigeration systems to keep perishable goods fresh. These systems, comprising large walk-in coolers and freezers, require constant energy to maintain low temperatures.
  • In-Store Entertainment: Many department stores incorporate in-store entertainment features like large-screen TVs, music systems, and interactive displays. While these elements enhance the shopping experience, they also consume a substantial amount of electricity, contributing to the overall energy footprint.
  • Escalators and Elevators: Apart from their primary role in facilitating customer movement, they consume significant energy. Elevators, in particular, require powerful motors to transport customers between floors, often operating even when no one is inside.
  • Security Systems: Department stores invest heavily in security measures, including surveillance cameras, alarms, and access control systems. These security systems, often operational 24/7, demand a continuous power supply.
  • Inventory Management: To keep track of their vast inventories, many department stores use advanced inventory management systems that rely on computer servers. Although essential for efficient stock control, these systems add to the electricity consumption as they run around the clock.
  • Parking Facilities: Large department stores typically provide extensive customer parking facilities. Illuminating parking lots, powering ticketing systems, and running ventilation in underground garages all contribute to the store’s energy consumption.
  • Window Displays: To entice shoppers, department stores often invest in elaborate and eye-catching window displays. These displays, equipped with intricate lighting arrangements, can consume considerable energy, especially when they are left illuminated for extended periods.

Powering the Point of Sale

The checkout counters, equipped with computers, scanners, and receipt printers, are essential for the shopping experience. However, these devices consume electricity continuously, not only during transactions but also when they are idle.

The Environmental Implications

The significant energy consumption in department stores has far-reaching environmental implications. As consumers, it’s essential to be aware of the environmental footprint of our shopping choices.

Carbon Emissions

The energy consumed by department stores primarily comes from non-renewables such as coal, natural gas, and oil. This reliance on fossil fuels contributes to greenhouse gas, a leading cause of climate change. It’s crucial to consider the carbon footprint of your favourite shopping destinations when investigating cost-effective sources of renewable energy.

Resource Depletion

Energy-intensive retail operations also place a burden on natural resources. The extraction of resources like coal and oil for energy generation deplete these finite reserves, impacting ecosystems and habitats.

A Sustainable Future for Retail

While the energy consumption of department stores may seem astonishing, there are ways to mitigate their environmental impact.

Transition to Renewable Energy

One of the most effective steps that department stores can take is to transition to renewable energy sources. Things like wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems can significantly reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Government Incentives and Regulations

The UK government actively promotes energy efficiency. Initiatives such as the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) encourage businesses, including department stores, to identify energy-saving opportunities and invest in sustainable practices. Compliance with regulations, such as the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), is necessary for larger retail spaces.

Strategies to make the best use of Efficient Energy Use

To mitigate energy costs, department stores can adopt a range of strategies that align with specific regulations set out by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. These include:

  1. LED Lighting: Switching to energy-efficient LED lighting reduces electricity consumption and maintenance costs.
  2. Smart Building Management: Implementing smart heating, ventilation, and lighting systems helps optimize energy usage.
  3. Renewable Energy: Utilizing renewable energy sources like solar panels provides clean and cost-effective power.
  4. Energy Audits: Regular energy audits can identify areas for improvement and potential cost savings.
  5. Consumer Engagement: Encouraging energy-conscious behaviour among shoppers, such as turning off unnecessary lights, can lead to significant savings.


The astonishing energy consumption behind your favourite department stores reminds us of our environmental challenges in the 21st century. As consumers, we can play a vital role in encouraging these retail giants to adopt more sustainable practices. Transitioning to renewable energy sources and implementing energy-efficient technologies are steps in the right direction. 

By making informed choices, we can contribute to a more sustainable future for retail and, ultimately, for our planet. If you want to read more information about how to reduce energy consumption for your department store, just visit