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Advertising sustainably during the crisis

Effective energy-saving measures for the interiors industry

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Since 1 September, binding energy-saving rules have been in force in Germany – to both private households and businesses. The interior design industry also has a responsibility and must implement energy-saving measures in the retail trade. Find out here what companies need to bear in mind and learn how retailers can save electricity and reach new customers at the same time.

Mandatory energy-saving measures have applied in Germany since the beginning of September.

Mandatory energy-saving measures have applied in Germany since the beginning of September. The interiors industry also has a responsibility to implement them. (Photo: Andrey Metely on Unsplash)

These are the new rules in the energy crisis

As a result of the war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis, the EU states have committed themselves to reducing their gas consumption considerably. The member states have to cut their consumption by at least 15% to secure energy supplies over the winter. The following rules apply with immediate effect until 28 February 2023:

  • A maximum temperature of 19°C applies in public offices and workplaces.
  • The flow temperature of the water used must be lowered to 55°C – this is in line with the recommended hygienic minimum. Ideally, warm water for handwashing should even be switched off completely.
  • Foyers, corridors and plant rooms may no longer be heated.
  • Buildings and monuments may no longer be illuminated at night.
  • Advertising panels, illuminated advertising and similar forms of lighting must also be switched off between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The only exception is advertising panels at public transport stops because they are part of street lighting.
  • Retail stores may no longer keep their doors open if the interior is heated.

Long-term regulations are also coming into force. Building owners are required to optimise the heating systems and insulation in their premises. These measures not only aim to get private individuals and businesses to lower their gas consumption – they also seek to cut power consumption, because this will reduce the need for gas-fired electricity to the minimum required.

How the retail sector is responding

These regulations apply to everybody in principle. Private households are also required to adopt the measures. Exceptions are allowed only for schools, nurseries and healthcare facilities. This means that German retailers also have an obligation. After all, they consume 95 kilowatt-hours per square metre each year on average – excluding grocery stores. Due to the rise in energy costs, these regulations are therefore sensible not just from a legal or environmental perspective – they also make economic sense.

Many of the energy-saving measures are relatively easy for businesses to implement. Few people will be bothered by unheated corridors or cold water for handwashing, and an ambient temperature of 19°C is just one degree below the much-cited well-being temperature, which was prescribed under employment law up until now. Many supermarkets heat their stores to just 19°C in any case, so consumers will probably hardly notice any difference. Employees will naturally need to adjust.

Closed doors should not be an obstacle for customers either. The German Retail Federation (Handelsverband Deutschland, HDE) has already launched the campaign “Door closed, shop open” to inform the public of the change. However, during the coronavirus crisis, we got used to frequent changes in our daily shopping habits. Closed doors are therefore also likely to be easily and quickly accepted across the country.

Lights out, advertising out?

But what impact will this have on marketing? Adverts in public spaces enjoy a certain degree of popularity and can have a positive influence on purchase decisions. What’s more, exterior illumination and LED advertising displays are becoming increasingly economical thanks to new technologies. But at night-time, the effectiveness of such promotional measures is probably low – and in the current energy crisis, every kilowatt-hour saved helps. Illuminated advertising is therefore banned from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. from 1 September 2022 to 28 February 2023.

Alternative advertising opportunities can be found in the digital world. Businesses are already spending only a fraction of their budgets on out-of-home advertising and are increasingly relying on online advertising. With today’s target group analyses – which are becoming ever more precise thanks to digital tracking – companies can see how their customers respond to these influences. Generally speaking, more people can probably be reached on digital channels in any case, and this is where the money saved can be used to more lucrative effect.

Other alternatives and sustainable advertising include:

  • Posters and billboards that are highlighted by street lighting.
  • Digital advertising media, which can appeal to the key target group even at night-time.
  • Some agencies are already even offering carbon offsetting for their online campaigns to enhance sustainability even further.
  • Product placements in series on online streaming platforms: the so-called Netflix effect has a significant influence on search behaviour.
  • Sustainable advertising media and eco-friendly event concepts for opening up new customer segments.
  • Brand collaborations that combine forces to create a greener future.
  • Guerrilla marketing campaigns with messages sent to potential customers via geofencing.

Or what about switching off the lights and heating completely? Germany’s federation for SMEs – the MITTELSTANDSVERBUND (ZGV) – has proposed “green Mondays ” : The idea is for furniture showrooms to stay closed on Mondays during the winter months. Dispensing with heating and lighting from Saturday evening to Tuesday morning would allow showrooms to save considerable quantities of gas and electricity. This would be an important contribution to tackling the current energy crisis. So far, however, the federation has been able to inspire only a few of the roughly 12,000 furniture showrooms in Germany to back the plan. Although many retailers welcome measures to save energy, they are afraid of distorted competition if other showrooms don’t take part in the campaign.

The energy crisis is forcing everybody to rethink

The energy-saving measures are a legal requirement for private individuals and businesses. The sustainability trend in the furniture industry is receiving another unintended boost from the energy crisis. And whether the individual measures will actually dampen consumer confidence is doubtful. Among the general population, the high gas and electricity prices are bound to have a greater impact on willingness to purchase than a closed store door or switching off an illuminated advert.

But the energy crisis also has the potential to fuel existing trends. Growing numbers of customers are demanding green business practices . Sustainability is a sales argument for many products. Now the crisis is also drawing attention to how stores are run and production facilities are operated, which is already generating some economic benefits today. But the energy-saving measures may not stop at cutting electricity bills – they could trigger a pioneering and sustainable transformation in businesses.

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: Advertising panels, illuminated advertising and similar forms of lighting must be turned off between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Advertising panels, illuminated advertising and similar forms of lighting must be turned off between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Companies can now switch to sustainable alternatives for their advertising. (Photo: John Cameron on Unsplash)