Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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. 


  1. That's interesting Thomas. In terms of the picture you included, a shopping area on a neighbourhood street with character, personality and the absence of great expanses of concrete is *always* more attractive to shoppers and non-shoppers alike. I think it has everything to do with the kind of overall world we want to live in. Plants matter and trees literally keep us alive.

  2. Great point, Ailsa. The results of the study are pretty obvious--people like trees--but it's always good to have research verify that. I've designed landscapes around shopping districts and the merchants were dead-set against large trees. I wish I had this information at the time to reassure them that large trees would not cause them to lose money. Thomas

  3. Now we just need to get the word out to all those commercial property developers who begin their work by bulldozing the site! Big chunks of Auburn, Maine have been submitted to this treatment in the past few years, and the loss of the trees and meadows that used to be an integral part of these shopping districts makes me want to cry every time I go there. -Jean

  4. Perhaps people like shopping in older shopping districts, in actual towns?

    I know I do.

  5. Love the title, Research Shows How Trees Affect Shopping & Excellent thinking for this work…….:)


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