Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community

Power rush

07 November, 2011
The busiest time of year for battery sales is fast approaching. Are you ready?
Page 39 

Imagine the scene. It's Christmas morning and little Max has just opened a fantastic remote-controlled car. He's ecstatic and his parents are delighted that he likes his present but then horror of horrors they realise that it does not come with batteries and they don't have any that fit! Dad jumps in the car and heads for the local forecourt. It's open. It stocks the right batteries and saves the day!

It may sound a little over the top but according to a survey by Panasonic, one in four consumers has received a battery-operated gift, but no batteries at Christmas. And what is more, 10% of those surveyed had also experienced a Christmas Day 'battery failure' in an appliance such as a TV remote control, camcorder or computer game.

Tim Clark, sales manager for UK and Ireland at Panasonic Energy, says: "This survey shows how vital batteries are at Christmas, both for shoppers and retailers, and the opportunity presented for retailers to increase their sales."

Meanwhile, Duracell says it has identified the key overall drivers of battery sales visibility and availability. Duracell business leader, Leigh Tomlinson, says batteries are mainly bought on impulse and as long as retailers make sure customers know where batteries are in store and can see the product they want, successful sales will follow.

She explains: "We know that when consumers enter a store they may not initially be looking for batteries. Because of this, it is essential to make it easy for them to see the batteries they need. The familiar Duracell copper and black cells instantly identify the category for many shoppers and create a focal point in-store."

Those familiar copper and black cells have been updated with Duracell Plus now called Duracell Plus Power and offering guaranteed longer-lasting power in AAA, C and D cells. Also available is Duracell Ultra Lithium, described as the brand's "most powerful AA battery ever".

There’s also a relaunch from Varta. Its Tri-Energy range, available in AAAA, AAA, AA, C, D, and 9V, is split into three different levels of performance. Yellow packs represents long-lasting power. These alkaline batteries are designed to prolong the lifespan of low-current devices that need consistent energy over longer periods of time, such as alarm clocks, baby monitors and remote controls.


Blue stands for powerful energy. Varta High Energy alkaline cells are engineered to give maximum power to energy-hungry devices such as remote controlled cars and portable music players. Red represents precise energy. These Max Tech alkaline batteries are formulated for hi-tech gadgets, increasing the speed of power flow between battery and device. This product is suitable for gadgets such as digital cameras, MP3 players and hand-held video games consoles.


The Tri-Energy range benefits from improved performance, impactful packaging, clearer POS and promotional concepts. Device icons and optimised product information make selection quick and easy as well as valuable data about performance. In addition, Varta’s Tri-Energy rechargeable batteries now feature green colour coding to set them apart from its conventional alkaline batteries.


Varta has also introduced a lithium-based battery range, suitable for applications with longer storage intervals or dormant times such as smoke alarms, as well as devices that consume a lot of current and have changing energy requirements such as digital cameras and flash devices. Available in 1.5 volt AA and AAA batteries and 9V blocks, the high energetic density within a lithium battery provides far greater capacity than conventional alkaline batteries.

Heroic packs

The big news from Energizer is its biggest-ever promotional campaign. The Energizer 'Be a Hero' on-pack activity aims to raise £100,000 for the Help for Heroes charity.

Energizer managing director, Nick Powell, says the partnership with Help for Heroes is a natural one as the army has been using Energizer batteries over the past few years. For every promotional pack sold, 5p will be donated to Help for Heroes. The activity runs until November 30. In addition, consumers can get involved with the campaign via Facebook. Energizer is also supporting the charity by sponsoring the annual Heroes for Rugby Charity Match at Twickenham on December 3.

"The pre-Christmas sales period represents the biggest profit opportunity for retailers, accounting for one third of all annual battery sales," says Powell. "Our campaign is designed to inject positive energy into the category by capitalising on this profitable sales period, incentivising consumers in a desirable and emotive way, encouraging charitable donations and delivering profit for retailers' customers; it is a win-win for everyone involved." The Be a Hero on-pack promotion is running across Energizer High Tech and Ultra+ AA and AAA packs.

Moving on, and Panasonic's Tim Clark reminds forecourt retailers that coin cell batteries for things like car key fobs are a must for their stores. "There are three main sizes 2025, 2032 and 2016. Retailers can make really good margins on these as they are usually distress purchases. I know that not all forecourt retailers will have space for them but even if they kept them under the counter it's better than not stocking them at all."

Panasonic's coin cells come in boxes of 10 but Clark says that with a shelf life of 10 years or more, forecourts should be able to shift them. However, more recently the company launched a six-pack where retailers can tear off cells to sell them individually.

"More and more items are using these specialist batteries and we've seen a big increase in sales this year," he says.

The Panasonic brand has a strong presence in Ireland, where Topaz has just started listing it. Elsewhere in the UK, the brand is strongest in independent forecourts.

There are two ranges alkaline and Evolta. Both will be available in 4+4 packs for Christmas but there are also new extra-value six-packs of alkaline and pro power AA and AAAs.

Most forecourt retailers choose to display their batteries behind the counter but Panasonic does offer an anti-theft counter display stand. Customers can see the batteries but the staff behind the counter have to take the batteries off their hooks when selling them.

"I believe there's a big opportunity in forecourts for batteries. When I go into a forecourt store, often the display is a bit under-whelming with a couple of batteries on a couple of hooks," he says, adding that improved displays could improve sales, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

He concludes: "Customers can be prompted to buy by seeing a display that's well merchandised and well laid out. Batteries need to be seen. And if you have promotional packs you really need to make sure those are seen as they are often impulse purchases."

Profitable alternative

Finally, Hong Kong-based GP Batteries reports that its distribution in forecourts is building slowly via its new distributor, Carepac. "Anyone in the forecourt trade can contact them if they are interested in stocking GP products, explains Paul Coker, sales manager at GP Batteries consumer division.

"Carepac's van sales team can merchandise GP products if the customer requires it," he adds.

"In terms of range, I think it would be safe to assume that forecourts will probably be leading their alkaline battery line-up with Duracell, something I would agree with," says Coker.

"As we move into the peak season, forecourts will probably be stocking the Duracell AA & AAA '4+4' free packs. These packs are readily available but each year we see the supermarkets cutting the price on them in order to gain market share. This puts independent traders in a difficult position as they will be far more expensive than the supermarkets, or they will make far less profit if they choose to price match.

"My suggestion would be for forecourts to consider other brands that have promotional packs on alkaline available. For instance, GP has an '8+4 free' pack available, which will probably have a similar cost price to the Duracell '4+4', but offers better value for money to the consumer. Plus it won't be available in the supermarkets so it offers forecourts something different, while delivering a healthy profit."

He suggests that forecourts also consider stocking his company's two pre-charged rechargeable battery ranges EkoPower and ReCyko+ alongside Duracell. "EkoPower and ReCyko+ are ready to use straight from the pack in the same way as an alkaline battery, but they are going to save consumers a lot of money because they last longer than alkaline batteries and can be recharged up to 1,000 times.

"A pack of four AA Duracell batteries, on average, will retail at £4.49. A pack of EkoPower has a recommended retail price of £9.99, but lasts three times longer. The consumer has already saved money without even charging the EkoPower batteries once. Similarly, with ReCyko+ at a rrp of £12.99 and being five times longer lasting than alkaline, the consumer is going to save money without even charging them.

"For the forecourt retailer, the big advantage in selling a pack of EkoPower or ReCyko+ batteries instead of a pack of alkaline is the additional cash profit it will put in their tills."


MERCHANDISING TIPS

High visibility converts shoppers into buyers: prompt customers using highly visible displays such as counter-top units to capitalise on impulse purchases.

A comprehensive range will meet different shoppers' needs: maximise use of space by stocking a range of leading branded products that cater to a variety of customer needs.

Help customers choose the right battery for their device: prompting customers with questions at the till point such as 'Do you need any batteries today?' or 'What device is the battery for?' can increase sales by five times.

Source: Energizer


remember CAR BATTerIES

After the past couple of winters we've had with low temperatures and heavy snow across the UK you'd be foolish not to stock car battery chargers. So says Danielle Kay, product manager at Saxon, who adds that most charger sales occur in winter, when people are using their lights, wipers and heaters more.

The company has just added four new lines to its own-brand Sakura range two intelligent battery chargers and two fully-automatic chargers. Suitable for gel cell and lead acid batteries, Kay says they are easy to use: "Anybody can use them because you can't get it wrong with these batteries. If you connect them up wrong, you will get an error message." The one amp and 3.5 amp intelligent chargers retail at £39.99 and £49.99 respectively, while the eight amp and 12 amp automatic chargers sell at £49.99 and £54.99.





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