Policy & Planning

Shoppers are increasingly interested in the experience of shopping, as well as the goods and services they expect to purchase. A series of studies has investigated associations between the urban forest and people’s response to shopping settings.

These studies show that providing for trees in the streetscape is an important investment for a business community. The presence of a quality urban forest positively influences shoppers' perceptions, and probably, their behavior. The information below includes research studies, and a guidelines booklet to help create and sustain beautiful streetscapes.



Trees and Business - Growing Together
A National Research Program
Trees provide environmental benefits in cities, but also contribute to the economy of communities. A program of scientific studies has found that shoppers respond positively to trees in downtown business districts. These findings have been consistent across large, small and mid-size cities of the United States. The most positive consumer response is associated with streets having a mature, well-managed urban forest where overarching tree canopy helps create a "sense of place." These materials describe the results across several research studies. Details of research done in different sized U.S. cities are found in sections below.

  Communities & Banking

Wolf, K.L. 2014. City Trees and Consumer Response in Retail Business Districts (pp. 152-172). In: F. Musso, & E. Druica (eds.) Handbook of Research on Retailer-Consumer Relationship Development. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. (1.4 M pdf)

  Communities & Banking

Wolf, K.L. 2013 (spring). The Urban Forest. Communities & Banking 24, 2: 25-27. (1.7 M pdf)


Joye, Y., K. Willems, M. Brengman, & K. Wolf. 2010. The Effects of Urban Retail Greenery on Consumer Experience: Reviewing the Evidence from a Restorative Perspective. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 9, 1: 57-64. (222 K pdf)



Wolf, K. L. 2009 (August). Trees Mean Business: City Trees and the Retail Streetscape. Main Street News 263: 1-9. (2 M pdf)


Wolf, K. L. 2009. More in Store: Research on City Trees and Retail. Arborist News 18, 2: 22-27. (456 K pdf)


Wolf, K.L. 2007. The Environmental Psychology of Trees. International Council of Shopping Centers Research Review 14, 3:39-43. (124 K pdf)


Augustin, S., and J.M. Cackowski-Campbell. 2007. Research Design Connections. Landscape Architecture 97, 8: 60. (pdf 1.6 M)



Trees are worth downtown's investment. April 2006. Downtown Idea Exchange. (pdf 204 K)



Wolf, K. L. 2005. Business District Streetscapes, Trees And Consumer Response. Journal of Forestry 103, 8, 396-400. (pdf 608 K)



National Public Radio broadcast, Autumn 2005 (link)


Urban Small Malls :
Public Response to Strip Malls and Roadside Landscapes
Strip malls evoke all sorts of response from urban observers. Some find them problematic in communities, due to inefficient use of space and poor visual quality. Others note that small malls provide convenient, local goods and services, and are important for new business start up. Public interest in urban sustainability is growing. New and renovated strip malls can incorporate more plantings and environmental design features. This study tested public response to varied landscape treatments of urban strip malls.


Wolf, K.L. 2009. Strip Malls, City Trees, and Community Values. Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 35 (1): 33-40. (1.2 M pdf)



Wolf, K. L. 2008. Community Context and Strip Mall Retail: Public Response to the Roadside Landscape, Paper 08-0842. Proceedings of the 87th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (January 13-17, 2008). Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science (Washington D.C.) (920 K pdf)


Trees Are Good for Business:
Guidelines for Planning, Planting, and Managing Trees in Business Districts
Long term and consistent stewardship of trees is needed to achieve economic benefits. This technical publication lays out the basics of planning and managementf for a retail urban forest. It outlines the goals, partners and actions needed to create and sustain a quality urban forest for business benefit. The brochure was a collaborative project of the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.


Trees are Good for Business. Technical Publication of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, Portland OR. June 2005. (pdf 14.7 MB)


Trees and Revitalizing Business Districts in Large Cities:
A Survey of Consumers & Merchants

This research compared the attitudes and values of urban residents and business people regarding the urban forest in retail business districts. Research methods included photo-based surveys and interviews. The project was national in scope; surveys were distributed in cities throughout the United States having greater than 250,000 population. The results demonstrated public preferences for trees in business districts, and differences in response between business people and nearby residents. Differences in shopping behaviors were also detected for business districts having trees. Those surveyed claimed they would be willing to pay up to 12% for goods sold in a district having a quality urban forest.

  Growing with Green: Business Districts and the Urban Forest - Fact Sheet 2 (pdf 144K)


  Trees in Business Districts: Comparing Values of Consumers and Business - Fact Sheet 4 (pdf 272 K)
  Trees in Business Districts: Positive Effects on Consumer Behavior! - Fact Sheet 5 (pdf 216 K)
  Grow for the Gold. In TreeLink, newsletter of the Washington Department of Natural Resources Community Forestry Program, No. 14, Spring 1999. (pdf 348K)
  Tree Investment Brings Cities Many Happy Returns. Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, August 2001. (pdf 168 K)
  Wolf, K. L. 2004. Nature in the Retail Environment: Comparing Consumer and Business Response to Urban Forest Conditions. Landscape Journal, 23, 1, 40-51. (pdf 3.1 M)
  Wolf, K. L. 2003. Retail and Urban Nature: Creating a Consumer Habitat. Population and Environmental Psychology Bulletin, 29,1,1-6 (reprint of Amsterdam People/Plant Symposium proceedings). (pdf 268 K)
  Wolf, K. L. 2003. Public Response to the Urban Forest in Inner-City Business Districts. Special Issue on Social Aspects of Urban Forestry. Journal of Arboriculture, 29, 3, 117-126. (pdf 212 K)
  Wolf, K. L. 1999. Nature and Commerce: Human Ecology in Business Districts. In C. Kollin (ed.) Building Cities of Green: Proceedings of the 9th National Urban Forest Conference. Washington D.C.: American Forests. (pdf 453 K)
  Wolf, K. L. 1997. Enterprising Landscapes: Business Districts and the Urban Forest. In C. Kollin (ed.) Cities by Nature's Design: Proceedings of the 8th National Urban Forest Conference. Washington D.C.: American Forests. (pdf 647 K)
  Wolf, K. L. 1997. Psycho-Social Dynamics of the Urban Forest in Business Districts. In P. Williams & J. M. Zajicek (eds) People Plant Interactions in Urban Areas: Proceedings of a Research and Education Symposium. Blacksburg, VA: People Plant Council. (pdf 2.8 M)


Trees in Small City Business Districts:
Comparing Responses of Residents & Potential Visitors
This study was a replicate of the large city study and tested consumer response to trees in communities that have 10-20,000 population. Measures of preference, perception and economic willingness-to-pay were used again. Research methods included interviews and mail-out surveys. Survey respondents prefer having large trees in retail streetscapes. Trees are also associated with reported increases in patronage behavior (such as travel distance and visit frequency), and willingness to pay more for products (up to 9%). Few differences in response were detected between small city residents and potential visitors who reside in nearby large cities.


Trees in Small City Business Districts: Comparing Resident and Visitor Response - Fact Sheet 16 (pdf 160 K)



Trees on Main Street: Influences on Retail and Shopping Behavior - Fact Sheet 17 (pdf 104 K)



Wolf, K. L. 2005. Trees In the Small City Retail Business District: Comparing Resident and Visitor Perceptions. Journal of Forestry, 103, 8, 390-395. (pdf 604 K)


  Wolf, K. L. 2002. Human Dimensions of the Urban Forest in Small City Business Settings. In SAF (ed.), Forestry at the Great Divide: Proceedings of the 2001 National Conference. Washington D.C.: Society of American Foresters. (pdf 555K)


The Urban Forest in the Athens, GA Business District:
Case Study Research on Consumers and Trees in a Mid-Size City

Prior studies suggest positive consumer response to the presence of trees in business districts, based on hypothetical shopping scenarios. A contingent behavior study was conducted in Athens, Georgia (about 100,000 population) to evaluate visitor reactions in a familiar retail setting that has an established urban forest canopy. Visitors of the Athens business district indicated strong preferences for the presence of trees, and specified how the presence of streetscape canopy influences their shopping activities.


Visitor Preferences for Trees in Streetscapes: Nature and Commerce in Athens, GA - Fact Sheet 12 (pdf 964K)


  Research on Business Visitors' Behavior: Trees and Commerce in Athens, GA - Fact Sheet 13 (pdf 564K)
  Wolf, K. L. 2004. Trees and Business District Preferences: A Case Study of Athens, Georgia, U.S. Journal of Arboriculture, 30, 6, 336-346. (pdf 376K)




Human Dimensions of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening
Nature & Consumer Environments - Trees & Transportation - Civic Ecology
Policy & Planning - Urban Forestry & Human Benefits

updated March 4, 2013