We (mostly meaning women) often have to combat subarctic temperatures at work. There are all kinds of reasons for this, including the old chestnut that it "makes workers focus better." But other businesses have their hand on the thermostat in ways that might surprise you.
A new study by the Association for Consumer Research looks into an observation first reported in the New York Times in 2005: "[H]igh-end retailer Bergdorf Goodman kept its stores chilled to 68.3 degrees [Fahrenheit], whereas Old Navy's was kept at a balmy 80.3." In other words, as the researchers put it, "the more expensive the merchandise, the colder the store temperature."
That isn't out of concern for the merchandise. In fact, the ACR found a physiological reason for the policy: Shoppers tend to make more emotional decisions when they're cold, especially when they're uncomfortably cold. It's all about seeking out "warm stimuli," or experiences and objects that will make us feel better. More expensive retailers are proffering memory-making wares, and emotion may help overcome the price tags. High-end stores ranging from exclusive malls to the fanciest grocer have jumped on this trend, and examples have been reported from Hong Kong to the U.K.
It may not be practical to carry around sweaters and scarves all year just to go shopping. But like understanding how stores can manipulate our senses (including our sense of smell, also tied to memory and emotion) overall, recognizing what that chilly air temperature is for may help you better evaluate whether you really want what's on offer.