With gadgets and gizmos topping Christmas wish lists, it’s no wonder that batteries sell so well at this time of year. Forecourts get their fair share of sales but according to Martin Gormley, brand manager at Duracell UK, they could do better.
"Forecourts always see a sales uplift for batteries during the holiday periods - Bank holidays, summer holidays and half-terms. The exception is Christmas when forecourts’ uplift is not as high as the multiple grocers, but there’s no reason why that should be the case. It’s got to be down to visibility. Yes batteries have improved visibility in forecourts at Christmas but nowhere near as much as in the grocery multiples," he says.
But the good news, according to Gormley, is that the problem is easy to fix. He advises retailers to start by stocking Duracell’s latest promotional offer - the ’4+4’ AA pack. "If you offer 100% extra free packs, shoppers will buy them - they’ll stock up because they know they will use them eventually. We know that free cells are extremely popular with consumers because similar activity during Christmas 2006 boosted sales by 69%." He says putting the promotional packs next to the till will really push sales.
In addition to the promotion, Duracell will be backed by TV and radio advertising in the run-up to Christmas with a campaign that features the Duracell Bunny.
For security reasons, many forecourts keep batteries behind the counter but Gormley says that’s not a problem as long as the fixture is visible: "It needs to be clearly signposted as the battery fixture."
Batteries might not seem to be a typical impulse purchase compared with a bar of chocolate or a bag of crisps but Duracell says that 75% of battery buyers had not actually planned to buy them when they entered a store, which explains why Gormley is pushing the visibility message.
He adds that impulse outlets, which of course include forecourts, are extremely important to the battery category as they account for 31% of sales. "When talking about battery purchases, you’ve got to look at the needs of the shopper. If there’s an immediate need for a battery then the nearest and easiest place to get to is usually the forecourt. And if it’s an imminent need forecourts are usually on a commuter route so consumers can pick them up on their way to or from work. In both cases forecourts offer the simple convenience factor."
Gormley says batteries are not a particularly price-sensitive product. "In research consumers came out with a wide variety of prices for batteries - from £3-£6 - so no, they are not that price sensitive but it’s still important to be competitive."
Meanwhile, Energizer’s latest consumer research reveals that consumers fall into the following categories: the premium buyers (16%), who always buy the best brand available; the leading brand buyers (18%), who have little interest in batteries; the mix and match buyers (23%), who switch between high- and low-tech batteries to suit the device; the ’anything will dos’ (13%), who buy the first batteries available; the low-cost buyers (18%), who go for brands on price or promotion; and the low-price driven (13%), who believe there is little difference between the brands.
"This research proves that, wherever possible, retailers need to stock a comprehensive range to cater for the purchasing habits of consumers - from those driven solely by price to consumers who only want the best the market has to offer," says Sarah Richardson, Energizer marketing manager.
To help retailers make the category more straightforward for consumers, Energizer recently launched its Shopper Based Solutions programme. Using the shopper’s decision-making process, simple merchandising principles have been developed which focus on the right product, the right location and the right message.
The battery fixture has been redesigned using device images and ’good, better, best’ battery segmentation from left to right to help guide the shopper.
Richardson says retailers need to stock a full range of batteries to meet all power needs - starting on the left with lower-priced products and increasing in performance to the right. Batteries should be blocked by brand vertically and by size horizontally - making life easier for shoppers to find the battery they need.
Meanwhile the Energizer range has been split into an ’everyday’ and ’premium’ offering, with packaging updated to reflect this positioning.
The everyday brand is Energizer Ultra+, a premium alkaline battery suitable for everyday household products such as remote controls, clocks and smoke alarms.
The premium range includes Energizer Ultimate, which is now 25% more effective in high-tech devices such as wireless mice, Bluetooth headsets and toys. There is also Energizer Ultimate Lithium which boasts seven times longer performance in digital cameras versus standard alkaline batteries. It gives 630 photos versus only 90 with standard alkaline batteries, and provides an extra 5.5 hours performance in MP3 players versus standard alkaline batteries.
Like Energizer, Panasonic too has been busy with consumer research. The company interviewed 1,000 newsagent customers and identified three important factors: brand is the most important consideration when buying from a c-store; consumers prefer pricemarked packs; and although consumers want batteries that last, they don’t want to spend a fortune on them.
Panasonic’s answer to all this is Alkaline Special Power, an exclusive battery for the convenience sector.
It lasts up to four times longer than previous Panasonic Special Power batteries and has an extended shelf life - from three to five years.
== pricemarking ==
The company’s research into pricemarking found that 83% of those surveyed said they would like to see pricemarked battery packs at their local store and 77% said they’d be more inclined to buy products that were pricemarked.
It should be no great surprise then to learn that Alkaline Special Power packs are pricemarked. And the price point is £2.49, a figure that met the expectations of more than half of the consumers questioned.
Tim Clark, marketing manager for Panasonic Batteries, comments: "By moving up to alkaline technology with the trusted brand name of Panasonic Special Power, we believe c-store retailers can maximise their battery sales and take full advantage of impulse purchases - especially now our packs are pricemarked."
=== MErCHANDISING TIPS ===
l A good product range ensures that lost sales and ’out-of-stocks’ are minimised.
l 70% of your space should be dedicated to best sellers. Shoppers can get confused with too much choice. Best sellers are AAA/AA, however the basic five lines should be available to maximise sales potential: AA/AAA/C/D and 9V.
l Group products together by sub-category. For example, standard and premium batteries.
l Use Duracell as the signpost brand. Ensure it has the most prominent position.
l Shelf edge labels - make sure all the price and product labels on the fixture are under the relevant products. Ensure special offer cards are kept up to date.
=== MEmory makers ===
For some forecourts, stocking memory cards makes good sense. However Dave Flack, director of sales and marketing at digital memory company Catalus, says retailers must first be aware of the different types available.
"The two popular formats are the secure digital (SD) and Micro SD. SD is generally for use with digital cameras, GPS and PDA applications. The Micro SD is mainly for mobile phones but both varieties can be compatible with many devices. Both cards come in a variety of storage capacities and different sizes sell well in different outlets. For instance, the 4GB card has stronger sales on the internet as it’s a high-capacity card which sells to technology-savvy consumers. But 1GB cards sell better on the high street, in supermarkets and non-specialist outlets as this type of consumer tends not to require excessive storage, prefers the 1GB price point and convenience element of the purchase."
=== PICTURE PERFECT ===
Despite the popularity of digital cameras, Kodak reckons there’s still a market for films and single-use cameras (SUCs) and so recommends that forecourts stock both.
The company says convenience is key - that consumers still run out of film and even those with digital cameras forget them sometimes and so need to pick up a SUC or they are going somewhere where they don’t want to take an expensive piece of kit. Kodak says other reasons given by consumers for using SUCs include the fact that their more expensive camera is not available; their memory card is full; or their battery is dead.
Kodak’s latest SUC is the Ultra, which comes in silver and red. It features an improved design, combined with the Kodak Ektanar lens and 800-speed film to deliver high-definition pictures.
"Retailers can offer consumers an attractive, compact and reliable alternative to expensive cameras to capture quality images," explains Laurent Dartoux, general manager of film capture, Eastman Kodak Company.
Meanwhile, when it comes to digital cameras, self-service printing kiosks are becoming more and more popular and Kodak has just launched an ’entry level’ machine for smaller retail locations.
The Kodak Picture Kiosk GS Compact is aimed at outlets with demand for 30-50 prints a day. As its name suggests, the GS Compact is a small counter-top unit that combines flexible placement with fast and simple installation. It offers customers 4x6, 5x7 and 6x8-inch prints.
Phil Cullimore, head of retail printing, Europe, Africa and Middle East, Eastman Kodak Company, says: "Many smaller retailers want to offer their consumers self-service digital picture printing but struggle to find a solution.
"The new GS Compact is small enough to fit within their retail footprint at a price point that enables them to quickly drive revenue and profits. We even include the point of sale materials with each unit - it’s an instant printing station in a box because a retailer can be up and running in only minutes."
The Kodak Picture Kiosk GS Compact costs £2,350.