Sell More With Plants: Biophilic Store Design and the Retail Environment

Sansevieria zeylanica, earning its keep in the window of a Toronto clothing boutique. Image © In Situ Plants.
A Kentia palm provides a backdrop for a handbag in a Toronto showroom's display window. Image © In Situ Plants.

I laid out in another post some of the ways plants can improve office and other interior spaces; rectifying poor air quality, reducing stress and improving focus and attention were some of the major benefits, all of which could of course be employed anywhere to optimize indoor environments.

As it turns out, there is also a good amount of data supporting the fact that retailers in particular have the potential to directly increase revenue through the addition of plants in their spaces.

Plants notably improve the customer experience in retail settings, and draw more customers, keep them around longer, and cause them to interact more with the space.

This study from the Vienna University of Economics and Business explored how the addition of plants and other natural features affected the movement and behavior of shoppers in a mall, and found that plants alone increased the inflow of people by nearly 25%, as well as increasing interaction with the space and with other people by more than 33%, creating that much more opportunity for sales. When coupled with other naturalistic elements such as water features the numbers become even higher, making a great case for both, though of course plants are a little less elaborate and more practical for most spaces.

They then go on to invoke this study, which notes that businesses on streets with ample trees rated substantially higher in customer perceptions of merchants and product value and quality, particularly in the case of specialty goods.

How is all this possible? The answer lies in the biophilic instinct, which I’ve gotten into here already, but which is basically humans’ innate need for affiliation with other living things, developed as we evolved alongside other forms of life. Proximity to natural elements helps us to feel grounded, secure, and at home, and indeed we do tend to surround ourselves with these: from houseplants to city parks, plants have figured largely in the way we have lived our lives since at least the beginning of written history.

Biophilic store design, then, is the incorporation of natural elements such as plants to a space to address this instinct in order to improve and enhance the consumer’s experience and ultimately translate this into increased revenue. Live plants are, of course, not the only natural element that could be used to satisfy this; they are, however, as close as one is likely to get to nature in most indoor settings.

For us this is yet another affirmation of the benefits and value of plants in retail spaces; we’ve seen first hand and heard from our clients how, for instance, people come in off the street just to have a look at the plants, only to more often than not shop the store.

And while we feel that any organization can benefit from interior landscaping services, it would appear that retail establishments have an opportunity to profit directly from the addition of plants to their spaces.