Research Shows How Trees Affect Shopping



A multi-study research program has concluded that the presence of trees—particularly mature canopy trees—affects how people shop and spend.  While much research has been done on how interior environments such as lighting and music affect consumer preferences, very little hard research has been done on how exterior environments affect people’s behavior. 

Study participants reported they would be more likely to shop, pay for parking, and spend more in environments with large canopy trees.  Merchants often prefer smaller ornamental trees because they fear large canopies will block store signage.  The study emphasized how the co-design of signage and vegetation can resolve these issues. 

Respondents rated mature canopy trees most favorably, emphasizing the need for shopping districts to invest in long-term maintenance and an abundance of soil volume for the trees.  Trees not only offer pleasant outdoor environments, but also provide the opportunity for place branding.  The selection of species to a specific section of a shopping district can “brand a place through subtle, yet observable distinctions of texture, seasonal color, and plant massing.”

Respondents preferred scenes where vegetation is presented in patterns.  Visual order was a cue to shoppers about the level of customer care and service they expected to receive in stores.

The study was completed by Kathleen Wolf, a research social scientist at the University of Washington, College of Forest Resources. 
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