When it comes to batteries, consumers want them to last as long as possible so no doubt they’ll be interested in Panasonic’s new Evoia battery, which has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest lasting AA alkaline battery. As such, it’s the first battery to do so.

The Evoia range comprises four sizes (AA, AAA, C and D) with the AA and AAA sizes featuring the new world record-breaking technology, and the C and Ds using the company’s existing alkaline technology. Panasonic says this is because AA and AAAs are used more in high-drain appliances. The batteries have the Guinness endorsement on pack and this will also appear on point-of-sale material.

Evoia, of course, has plenty of competition, not least of all from Duracell which, according to IRI, GFK and TNS data, is the UK’s number one alkaline battery brand. Brand owner Procter & Gamble (P&G) says it’s set to "shake up the battery category" with Duracell’s biggest innovation for 10 years. The innovation is new technology which delivers improvements in both power and performance.

The result is that both Duracell Plus and Duracell Ultra last longer - indeed P&G says no other alkaline battery lasts longer than Duracell Ultra. Just how it compares with Panasonic’s Evoia is not stated. In addition, the Duracell range has new packaging to highlight the performance upgrade. And the Duracell Bunny will feature once again in advertising including TV and print, digital media and PR.

== Charging ahead ==

With the environment, or rather looking after it, a hot topic, the rechargeable battery market is expected to grow. At present rechargeables account for just 7.5% (TNS data) of battery sales but manufacturers are all busy building up their ranges in readiness for extra sales. According to AC Nielsen, Energizer is the number one rechargeables manufacturer in the UK with a 47% share and growth of 30% year-on-year.

Energizer has just relaunched its rechargeables range with sleek, modern units that will charge batteries hundreds of times. Charge time takes as little as two hours and the batteries have been proven to last up to four times longer in digital cameras than standard alkaline batteries. Its new rechargeable range includes the Portable Charger for people on the go. This charges AA and AAA cells in three hours. Recommended retail price is £29.99.

Then there’s the USB charger which enables consumers to charge up their batteries through a computer or laptop. Rrp is £12.99.

Also available is the Quattro charger which can accommodate AA, AAA and 9V batteries. Charge time takes as little as 4.3 hours. Rrp is £13.99-£19.99. The Quattro Rapide, as the name suggests, is an exceptionally fast charger designed for AA and AAA batteries with charge time taking as little as 2.6 hours. Rrp is £27.99

Then there’s the Universal Charger, which powers up a variety of batteries at the same time. It can take AA, AAA, C, D and 9V cells and takes between 3-5 hours. Rrp is £24.99.

All the aforementioned devices are quite pricey and might not suit some stores. In those cases Energizer recommends what it describes as the "perfect entry-point charger for smaller stores" - its Mini. This is suitable for 2AA or 2 AAA batteries, or a combination of both. It has a rrp of £11.99 and comes complete with batteries. It boasts a new design and a timer switch-off button so that batteries cannot be overcharged.

New from Duracell are Active Charge cells, which come pre-charged for use straight out of the packet. P&G says they stay charged for longer - holding up to 75% of power for up to a year when not in use, and need recharging less often than Duracell’s standard rechargeable batteries. They come in four-packs of AA or AAA and have a rrp of £13.99.

Meanwhile, the Duracell Pocket Charger can provide power to many well-known devices. It has one cable for iPods, one for Blackberry devices, and one cable for all mobile phones with a mini USB power port. It charges two rechargeable batteries at one time, and can take AA and AAA cells, while the Duracell Instant Charger is a high-capacity lithium battery that can be recharged hundreds of times through any standard laptop or USB outlet. Rrp for the Pocket Charger is £19.99; the Instant Charger is £34.99.

Paul Lettice, trade communications manager at P&G, comments: "The rechargeable market is currently worth £51.4m (IRI data) in retail value, which is twice the size of the zinc carbon battery market, and is therefore a key area for growth in the category overall."

Panasonic’s Infinium range of rechargeable batteries also comes fully charged so the cells can be used immediately on purchase. Plus they retain their power so they can be charged and stored, ready to be used at a moment’s notice. The company says tests show that after 6-12 months of storage at room temperature, the battery still retains up to 80% of its power. It says ordinary rechargeable batteries would be completely drained by this time.

The Panasonic range is being relaunched in new packaging where the products will be more visible and the charging time will be highlighted on the front. In addition, the new design is more compact to optimise shelf space, with the length and width adapted to the size of two standard blisters.

== The specialists ==

While sales within the total battery market are flat, Boke Boddin, marketing manager at Energizer, reckons consumer demand for power-hungry gadgets has opened up a host of new profit opportunities for retailers in the lithium, rechargeables and specialist sectors.

"Rechargeables, specialist and lithium batteries aimed at high-drain devices are seeing double-digit sales growth, which means bigger profits for retailers from the same amount of fixture space."

For example, as demand for ’micro’ gadgets booms, so does demand for specialist batteries. The number of devices powered by specialist batteries has risen more than 50% since 2000 (NPD USA device study 2007). Boddin says: "Demand for AAAA batteries is being driven by the Jabra BT2040 headset and One for All’s TV remote, with many more in the pipeline.

"Alkaline batteries used to see the biggest sales uplifts over Christmas, but in 2007 we saw lithium, rechargeable and specialist battery sales showing the biggest sales increases of 91%, 12.4% and 13.5% respectively as more consumers purchased digital devices such as digital cameras and MP3 players."

Boddin says she’s expecting digital cameras, games consoles and digital radios to sell well this Christmas. "Cameras and handsets for computer games in particular need batteries suitable for high-drain devices such as Energizer Ultimate Lithium. In fact Energizer Ultimate Lithium gives 60 hours of play time in the Wii and Wii Fit versus 35 hours with standard alkaline batteries (as stated in the Nintendo Wii user manual)."

She says getting the merchandising and product availability right is key to improving sales of batteries. They are high value items so many retailers keep them behind the till where they can keep an eye on them. Boddin comments: "It is right to take security seriously, however it’s still important that batteries are easily visible to shoppers so they can consider the type they need." She says counter-top display units are an excellent way to display batteries - making them highly visible to remind shoppers and attract impulse purchases.

One third of all battery sales take place during November, December and January. Says Boddin: "Most retailers will not have space to increase the size of their battery fixture so it’s even more important that displays are kept fully stocked.


=== the Batteries directive and the forecourt ===

The Batteries Directive is a new piece of environmental legislation which governs the collection and recycling of portable batteries. While the directive came into force across Europe in September, it is not expected to become law in the UK until mid 2009.

Vince Armitage, divisional vice president at Varta Consumer Batteries UK, explains: "While many will look on the legislation as more Brussels red tape, forecourt operators who take time to understand the legislation and its aims will ultimately benefit from its introduction.

"The collection of batteries is already happening in a number of countries across Europe, with retail outlets used to house collection points for end-of-life batteries. These collection points are set up via compliance schemes operating on behalf of the battery manufacturers. Among the most successful collection points are those that are located on petrol forecourts. These often take the form of small boxes on counters or small dumpbins located elsewhere in the store.

"While there is no direct payment to the retailer for having the collection points in store, European forecourts have experienced increasing battery sales as a result of acting as collection points. This is because when people are disposing of their dead batteries, purchasing replacements is suddenly front of mind. Knowledgeable staff can educate consumers, not only about the need to recycle their dead batteries, but also about the fact that old batteries can be disposed of in store. This provides a reason for the consumer to return to the store - driving footfall and sales.

"At present, the details about collection schemes and collection points are still being finalised. But when you consider the success forecourt retailers have had on the continent, we would hope that a similar approach would be adopted in the UK. "


=== Gadgets galore ===

* Panasonic’s Pocket Energy is a light and compact energy solution which can power and/or recharge almost any USB chargeable device ranging from an iPod smart phone, PSP or Blackberry to an MP3 player or GPS. The product comes with two of Panasonic’s Infinium rechargeable batteries and a docking station, which can be used to charge the batteries.

* Energizer’s new Panic Alarm and LED Light features a bright light which never needs to be replaced, and a handy clip to attach to handbags. When activated it emits a 115 decibel alarm which runs continuously for 11 minutes. Recommended retail price is £5.99.

* Energizer’s AutoLight is ideal for keeping in the car in case of an emergency. It has three lights which can be used separately or at the same time for maximum illumination.

These include a flashing amber LED for use as a roadside caution light, a bright LED area light that provides very long run times (over 100 hours on a set of fresh batteries) and a super bright krypton spotlight - all contained in a weather-proof construction. Rrp is £19.99.


=== Maximise sales ===

* 75% of battery buyers are not intending to buy them when they enter a store so visibility of your battery display is crucial.

* 40% of consumers who get to the battery shelf fail to make a purchase due to confusion over battery types and sizes, so it is essential for retailers to make the fixture easy to shop.

* Shelf layout should be done from the perspective of the consumer ie appliance driven.

* Retailers should ensure they stock a cross section of the most popular battery sizes: AA, AAA, C, D and 9V.

* Display space should be allocated to each size in line with consumer demand.

Source: Panasonic