Bricks vs Clicks: The energy benefits of an online business

More than 78% of online retailers are confident that sales will rise over the next year compared to just 27% of high street businesses. Online sales now account for 80% of all sales of music and videos, 53% of books, 42% of electrical products, 14% of fashion, and 5% of health and beauty.

Online shopping is now considered by many to be as enjoyable as traditional shopping and sales have trebled in the last six years, accounting for about 12% of total retail sales. Research dictates that by 2018 online sales will have grown another 50%, meaning £50 billion will be spent online.

Unlike high street stores or offices, online businesses don’t incur business rates or rental costs and the energy savings can be huge. In 2012 British Gas collected data from over 6,000 smart meter readings, showing that 46% of business electricity use happens outside of the traditional business hours of 8am-6pm. It’s easy to see why – navigate a high street at 4 am and the window displays are still lit up ‘advertising’ their products. In contrast, online businesses can sell 24/7 via automated services so you can literally be selling products in your sleep.

Heating several offices or stores and running multiple electrical appliances can result in electricity suppliers being a continuous presence on outgoings. The average office worker uses £696 of power per year.  60,000 stores are predicted to close in the next five years because operating costs have risen by 20%. Running an online business means you don’t have to worry about two sets of electricity and gas prices, staff and equipment.

However, businesses do benefit from having a physical presence. For a start a physical building will provide you with place where can see and feel your products. Many people also only use the internet as a means of finding a product, like a new dress, to try out in store; what looked good online may not look as flattering in reality.

Businesses can be run purely online, but every product can require a different sales medium and many may require both a physical and online presence, but as the internet sales market grows it’s worth being aware that the opportunity to save energy and money is there.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within the British Gas Business Blog are those of the author alone and do not represent those of British Gas. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this blog are not guaranteed. British Gas accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright in the content within the British Gas Business Blog belongs to the authors of such content and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. For more information about the mix of fuels used to generate our electricity simply visit You can find information about how to make a complaint at