Close The Door Mate, It’s Still Freezing

By - Thursday 31st January, 2013

Why Brendan Walsh spent January demanding to see the manager

I couldn’t help myself really. It’s an inbuilt instinctive childhood reaction. Snow starts falling and you rush down to the high street to spot shivering retailers. I barely had time to grow a beard. There was some good news. The number of doors shut was now at 50% (January 19th 2013), up from 29% in early December. A Pyrrhic victory, if you think of how much energy was still wasted in the fight back against the zero degree temperatures.

I did promise, last time out, to report the findings of my discussions with various store managers who insist on keeping the doors of their shops open despite the Arctic conditions. Here are the most interesting results, whether I liked them or not.

Squeaky clean, if you ask me

The Close the Door campaign has been at loggerheads with Lush for a couple of years. Lush position themselves heavily as an ethical shopping choice. However, they were stubbornly refusing to engage with the issue of energy waste. Indeed, when I visited the Croydon branch the store manager sympathetically explained that Head Office insisted on the doors being open to allow the fragrant aromas to emanate into the Croydon air. I stood one metre outside the door and couldn’t smell a thing. Maybe it was the icicles in my nostrils. However, after my initial visit we had a breakthrough. Lush will now let their local store managers make their own door-opening policy. Armed with this knowledge I returned to Lush to find the team there in typically welcoming mood. When I passed on the news about the change in policy they said they would close the doors if I could provide them with a sticker for the door explaining the policy and inviting people in. The snowball is clearly in my court.

Not pictured: Doors

JD Sports
They have no doors. THEY HAVE NO DOORS. It led to the shortest conversation of my tour. Well, I can hardly complain to the management, can I? I can lobby the council’s planning department though.

Ann Summers
From the shortest conversation to the longest visit. I do it all in the name of research, honest. Actually, to be completely honest, I haven’t blushed so much since I was 15. Whilst it was a Head Office decision, they were of the opinion that having the doors closed would affect footfall and referred me to their experiences when having their doors tested. I felt that this would have been due to the presence of workmen and people may not have been comfortable going in when there were other things going on in the store. It looks like I may have a long and hard campaign ahead of me here.

GAME won’t do it because they can’t afford to lose a single customer. At least they’re honest.

The store manager said it was a Head Office decision and one he agreed with. With the economic climate being what it is he said he wouldn’t shut the door if it meant losing just one customer a year. I suggested that the one customer in question would have to spend an awful lot of dosh to cover the cost of all the heat being lost through the door in a year. He looked at me as if I was a madman. I felt we had finally found some common ground.

The store manager was wearing gloves due to the cold. The doors were open. She said the customers kept leaving them open so she was running to close them all the time. She also said Head Office had told them to keep the doors closed. I might have to start shopping here on principle, although an automatic door closer wouldn’t go amiss.

The owner told me that small businesses cannot compete against the larger chains on the high street. He was perfectly happy to keep the door shut from 9 – 12 but had to work on the lunchtime crowd to stay alive.

In any other circumstances, ‘our doors are always open’ would be a good thing.

I said at the start of this month that I wouldn’t stop until I had answers, and I’ve found one very obvious one. “Head Office” clearly decides the policy for most of the chains in North End, usually to the annoyance of the store manager. Chitter Chatter, Office, Deichmann, and Footlocker all said they’d prefer to keep the doors closed but weren’t allowed. Topshop, on the other hand, had 3 out of 4 doors shut but only because the heating was on the blink and would be throwing open the doors as soon as they could. The 3Store was in the same position (because of the freezing conditions outside rather than a dodgy heater). Clas Ohlson also had 3 out of 4 doors closed but this was trying to keep a balance between keeping the heat in and not putting off potential customers. At least they were aware of the issues and could be worked on.

This concludes my fact finding mission into the issue. I have made formal contact with the official Close The Door campaign group and will now begin the hard part, effecting change. If you see the logo, go in and give your support. You know it makes sense.

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.

More Posts

  • Anne Giles

    Interesting. I prefer going into shops who keep their doors closed. It would never put me off!

    • Brendan Walsh

      Good on you Anne, doesn’t hurt to let them know you approve.

  • Kake

    Oh, well-investigated!

    I like the suggestion on the Close The Door website that customers should simply try to close the doors themselves — it might seem obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it before. A nice way to perform some direct action.

    Perhaps this should be the Citizen’s next campaign…

    • Brendan Walsh

      Quite right, Kake. If you find it jarring to find the door ajar, close it for them.

  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    I was in H&M yesterday and noticed they have signs on the doors stating they like to keep the doors closed to maintain the temperature inside and save energy I believe. Having read this article when it 1st was published I assumed they had thought about what you had said and decided to follow through. Its great if this is the case and is a great example of showing that if we as Croydonians are passionate about something we can make a change or least feel a sense of pride that we tried. Thanks Brendan for this campaign.