Over the years, research institutes around the world have studied the importance of having trees in shopping areas, proving that the presence of healthy mature trees positively influences shopping behavior. One study done by the University of Washington examined the connection between trees and people’s response to shopping locations. The research found that shoppers respond positively to retail areas with trees, demonstrating that healthy trees planted for long-term success is an important investment for retail communities.

Selfridges, Duke Street, London

With today’s online shopping environment, people do not go to retail areas and shopping centers simply to purchase goods – that can be done faster, and often cheaper, online. Rather, shoppers that visit retailers are more interested in the experience. The appearance of a retail area is an important part of creating the welcoming and interesting shopping experience that people are expecting. The most positive consumer responses occur when mature, well-managed trees are present, according to research. And the good news is that, when using engineered urban tree planting systems, valuable hardscape surface does not have to be lost to accomplish this.

In 2007, the Bradford Metropolitan District Council began work on the redevelopment of the pedestrian areas in the city’s central shopping area – Darley Street. A new design incorporating quality infrastructure and trees was planned to encourage people into the heart of the city. The aim was to create a high quality area that would attract pedestrians. The features specified as part of the design included lighting, seating, bins, bollards, cycle racks, and engineered tree pits to ensure the health and longevity of the trees.

Darley Street Shopping Area – Bradford, UK
Darley Street Shopping Area – Bradford, UK (2007)

Due to the high pedestrian traffic of this area, the maximization of hardscape surface was of paramount importance. GreenBlue Urban’s Pavement Support System was used to provide the needed soil volume for trees while ensuring that hardscape surface was maximized. And because the designer’s choice of paving was a central part of the theme, the GreenBlue Urban Castle PavingStone Tree Grate was used as the ideal method for continuing the paved surface as close to the tree as possible.

There are many benefits trees offer to contribute towards improving the environment of shopping areas, but the main reasons determined from research are:

  1. Aesthetics: Quite simply, visual preference ratings were higher for shopping areas with trees and much lower when trees were not present. This was particularly the case when large mature trees provide canopy cover over the pavement and/or street.
  2. Distance Perception: People are willing to travel further and more often to visit retail environments with mature tree cover. Shoppers have also indicated that upon arriving, they will spend more time in retail districts with trees.
  3. Product Pricing: Shoppers surveyed in one study were willing to pay 9 to 12% more for goods and services in shopping areas with large, mature trees.

It’s not uncommon for trees to play a role in urban improvement schemes, but what is uncommon is that trees are designed and planted for success. The 2009 plan to revitalize Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Canada included trees for success. The renovation of this 18-acre urban park had the main goal of seamlessly integrating the adjacent Aberdeen Pavilion exhibition hall into the new urban setting, while maintaining natural features. The Aberdeen Pavilion and surrounding plaza at Lansdowne Park is home to the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, where the presence of maturing trees in this area provides shade, beauty, and many other benefits to help attract customers. Through the specification of GreenBlue Urban’s ArborSystem, the landscape architect was able to provide the needed hardscape area, while giving the trees everything they need to thrive and reach maturity.

Lansdowne Park Farmers Market – Ottawa, Canada

For retailers, a quality public environment can improve sales by attracting more shoppers. For example, it has been proven that well planned improvements to public spaces and downtown streets can boost commercial trade by up to 40% and generate significant private sector investment (The Association of Town Center Management).

“People are willing to pay 9 to 12% more for goods and services in a shopping area with large, well-cared for trees”

However, having healthy trees in a heavily urbanized area like a shopping mall or other retail district can be challenging to design. Pedestrian and vehicular areas require large amounts of hardscape surface, and hardscape surfaces requires compaction that restricts root growth. Trees on the other hand, require the exact opposite – uncompacted soil that is well aerated and sufficiently irrigated.

That’s why GreenBlue Urban developed the Pavement Support System for urban tree planting almost 20 years ago. With a system like RootSpace, you can provide high volumes of healthy non-compacted soil for root growth, while maintaining structurally sound, load bearing support to pavements above it. All while providing air and water access to that soil, even under impermeable surfaces like concrete and asphalt.

So when considering the benefits and return-on-investment you’d like to see on a commercial or retail project, remember what healthy trees can offer and what it takes to create them.

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