How to Judge a Store By Its Temperature

Posted on June 27, 2005

In an article entitled "Shivering For Luxury," The New York Times investigates the varying temperatures inside the most luxurious retailers. Their (completely unscientific but most interesting) findings: the more luxurious the store, the colder the temperature inside. So, Bergdorf Goodman keeps it really chilly inside, while customers at Old Navy swelter in the summer heat.

A recent experiment in which a reporter visited various commercial corners of Manhattan with a high-grade thermometer found that almost without fail, the more ritzy the establishment is trying to be, the colder the air-conditioning is kept. In other words, the higher the prices, the lower the temperatures. Consider the clothing stores: Bergdorf Goodman, 68.3 degrees; Bloomingdale's, 70.8; Macy's 73.1; Club Monaco, 74.0; the Original Levi's Store, 76.8; Old Navy 80.3.

For the experiment a pair of professional-grade Mannix HDT303K digital thermometers were used. The temperature was measured as close to the center of each establishment as possible, away from any vents, moving air or doors. When the thermometers' readings differed (never by more than 0.4 degrees), the two were averaged. The reporter did not announce his presence as one but entered each place of business as a normal customer would. While a few degrees' difference might not sound like much, the feeling on bare skin can be surprising. Tiffany & Company (70.3), where a sterling silver baby rattle sells for $200, lacked the meat-locker-like sting of Herm�s (68.6), which sells a stainless steel thermos for $1,200.

As far as we're concerned, the colder the better. There's nothing more irritating than trying on fall cashmere sweater and wool suits in an overheated dressing room. Shopping is hard work, especially if you happen to accept a few of those lovely complimentary glasses of champagne.