Close the door mate, it’s freezing

By - Thursday 20th December, 2012

Brendan Walsh is a Christmas shopper on a mission

Christmas is coming, and with energy prices booming, methods of keeping warm are in demand. My dear ol’ mum used to wrap me up like a mummy which pleased my dear ol’ dad immensely. I was about 10 before I realised the radiators in my house were something other than a weird low level art installation. Roaring fires were ok in the evenings, as long as you had been warmed once cutting the firewood and, later, enjoying the fruits of your labour. But all that was a long time ago in a land far, far away.

Nowadays, a trip down Croydon’s North End for some presents for your nearest and dearest should warm you up, not just from the physical act but the heat pouring through the open doors of every other shop. In fact, so noticeable was it last Sunday afternoon, I had to go back and check. Over 70% of the stores that were trading at the time had doors that were being kept in the open position. The remainder had either automatic doors or overhead door closers.

I understand the thinking behind it. Throw your doors open wide to welcome your customers in. If the business next door has its doors open and yours are shut you may lose custom. Well, times are a changing. Many top businesses had doors closed and were doing a roaring trade during my survey. I don’t believe too many Christmas shoppers were perplexed by the hinged access apparatus that stood between them and the objects of their desire. If the neighbouring shop could also be encouraged to keep its doors closed it would keep the playing field level across the high street.

I had considered whether or not to publicly “name and acclaim” stores which had the good environmental and economic sense to embrace their inner Larry Grayson but I thought I would hold back to give others a chance to mend their ways. I also haven’t yet gone into each individual shop; some of them may be perishing inside. May not be great to work in but that’s a different issue. Keeping the doors closed must also have the added attraction of showing customers the store owners are taking responsibility for their carbon footprint. This can only play well to the increasing numbers of socially aware consumers, just ask Starbucks about the impact of negative publicity.

I particularly want to have a chat with the store managers to find out which ones had such policies dictated by Head Office.  One report I saw suggests that up to 50% of energy usage can be saved by keeping the door closed. This must lead to massive savings on overheads when rolled out across a number of stores in a nationwide chain.

The underlying reason for undertaking this project is this. Fuel prices are rising. Fuel sources all come with a negative impact. Fossil fuels? Global warming. Oil? Running out. Nuclear? Fukushimaradiation (this is the technical term). Fracking? Potential water contamination. Wind farms? Blot on the landscape (apparently).  Solar? Can’t keep up with demand yet. We all seem to know that we need to reduce our energy dependency. Retail must play a part, same as the rest of us, but for their own benefit, not just for everyone else.

I’ll return at the end of January with an update, ready to name, shame and acclaim. I’ll also report positive and negative reaction in good faith and try to address issues which are brought to my attention which I had not previously been aware of. This is what, I believe, the Croydon Citizen was made for.

Brendan Walsh

Brendan Walsh

Balham born but raised in Cork in the Republic of Ireland, moved to London permanently in 1994 and lived in Stockwell before settling in Thornton Heath in 2000. A Civil Engineer with unhealthy interests in DIY, CPFC and Irish Cricket. In 2009, swapped shouting at the TV for political activism. Went straight from omnivore to vegan in 2010 for a one month long experiment and haven’t looked back. Currently Tweeting on behalf of the Croydon Green Party.

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  • Andrew Dickinson

    ‘inner Larry Grayson’ that made me roar Brendan. Seriously, I have to agree with you on this. Overheads for any business have to be kept under control but these door curtain heaters make no economic sense, belching out warmth that’s immediately sucked outside. Also, when you take in to account the long opening hours it’s horrifying.Keeping the doors closed while heating the premises from different areas must be better.When the doors open the customer gets a rush of warm air anyway.I’m looking forward to Januarys update.

  • Kake

    Leaving the door open in this weather really makes no sense at all! Do you have a link to that report you mention, about saving up to 50% of energy usage? I’m sure I’ve come across it before but I can’t find it now.

  • Brendan Walsh

    The original report from the close the door campaign group can be found here.

    • Kake

      Thanks! It’s interesting to see that the open-door-plus-air-curtain scenario still wasn’t as good as the closed-door scenario for keeping the place warm enough — so there are comfort benefits to closing the door too.

      The difference in results between the shop with one open door and the shop with three open doors also suggests that shops with multiple doors could benefit from closing some of the doors at least, even if they aren’t willing to close them all.

  • Close the Door

    Great piece on this issue! If you want to find out more about this, please check us out at and on Twitter and Facebook. Cambridge University research proved that a single shop can save up to 10 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Just imagine if they all closed their doors! Thanks Brendan for drawing attention to the huge energy waste on the high street.

  • Kake

    Interesting related article on the Guardian website yesterday: the benefits of fridge doors.