Monday, June 09, 2008

Profit Maximizing Level of Air Conditioning in Grocery Stores

I've been meaning to blog about this since I saw Tyler Cowen's post at MR on the subject, but a recent trip to the store reminded me to do so. His explanation:
I believe the goal of high-powered AC is to give customers the feeling of luxury, the feeling that anything can be afforded, and the feeling that the store will spare no expense toward the end of comfort. I do not believe that either the average or the marginal buyer actually -- marketing effects aside -- prefers that temperatures be so low.
I'm not buying the feeling of luxury story in the literal sense, though I won't rule it out. I have other complementary explanations I suspect play a larger role:
  1. As a bagger at a major grocery store in my teen years, I have no memory of thinking the store was chronically cold. Probably because I was working and was hot, or at least hotter than the customers. The person who was in charge of the thermostat was also working, and probably didn't think it was too cold. Customer satisfaction is important, but so are employees when it comes to profitability.
  2. Produce sections have higher refrigeration costs as the difference between the cool sections and the rest of the store increases.
  3. Customer visits on average are probably not that long, and coming in from the heat it may be not long enough to get so acclimated that they may become cold. Setting it so low that they cool off but leave before they get cold may be the optimal strategy.
  4. It is easier to lose a customer for being too warm rather than too cold. You are not trying to get the "average" customers preferences, you want to accommodate the person with the lowest temperature preference.

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