It’s the most wonderful time of the year for battery sales, with AC Nielsen data revealing that 31% of batteries are sold in the 12 weeks before Christmas.

Whether it’s to power a Christmas present or one of the many remote controls we all have nowadays, batteries are vital at this time of year.

According to Eva Jacobs, Energizer brand manager North Europe, the average household in the UK has a total of 17.6 devices, which use batteries, but households with children probably have even more.

"In 2016 the number of devices in households which require batteries is on the increase with growth driven by three key areas health devices (eg blood pressure monitors), home automation devices (linked to the ’Internet of Things’ ie the internet-working of physical devices such as smart smoke alarms, electronic window/door locks) and smart tech and wearables (such as fitness trackers).

"Due to the high value of these products, consumers will be looking for long-lasting, high-quality products that can be trusted to help these high-drain devices perform to the best possible ability," says Jacobs.

Christina Turner, associate marketing director at Duracell UK, says that as devices get more complex, they need more power than less advanced gadgets might have needed in the past. "Alkaline batteries, such as the Duracell Ultra Power, remain the most common type used for toys and generic devices so it is no surprise that they are still one of the major pillars of the category."

Ultra Power is the top-performing product across Duracell’s alkaline range. Turner says it runs for longer than any other product on the market.

"It lasts as much as 10 times longer than zinc batteries in some devices, thanks to its three key optimised components (the anode, the cathode and the separator) which work together to create a battery that delivers our strongest power for longer.

"We know that performance is the number one factor that consumers are looking for in batteries, so we are always improving our technology to ensure that we provide the world’s best alkaline batteries. With this in mind, we recently upgraded our Plus Power range to offer 50% more power."

According to Nielsen, AA and AAA account for 73% of primary battery sales in the UK so forecourt retailers with limited space should focus on these. However, if you have the space, Energizer’s Jacobs recommends you stock the top six sizes: AA, AAA, 9V, C, CR2032 and D. The seventh most popular size is the LR44, and Duracell’s Turner says this size, together with the CR2032, are expected to become even more popular as the ’Internet of Things’ trend grows.

When it comes to where consumers are buying their batteries, the discounters and grocery multiples do well thanks to their promotional packs and multibuy deals, but Paul Clarke, sales and marketing director at Spectrum Brands, reckons there’s still a role for convenience and forecourt retailers.

"The key element for independents to remember when it comes to competing with the wider marketplace is that knowledge is power. The battery sector is incredibly competitive and most brands offer tiers of power to suit the needs of different devices. Where space is no object, retailers can provide a comprehensive selection of brands, battery sizes, power levels and price points. However, often consumers can feel overwhelmed by this choice. A little knowledge goes a long way here and understanding what each cell can do, as well as the demands of your local community, is essential for developing a sales strategy that works."

And he believes it’s important that retailers don’t fall into the trap of thinking that cheaper is always better. "Batteries are the beating heart of the devices that we use each and every day, and consumers value power and performance above everything else. The Varta 4+4 Free bonus pack comes in a ready-to-sell promotional display with a comparative claim versus the market leader, making it possible to offer great value as well as assured quality."

Clarke says one of the key merchandising opportunities for independents is thinking about secondary locations and cross-sell opportunities. "A staggering two-thirds of all consumer battery purchases are impulse driven, so shoppers are drawn in by promotional displays or placements next to related products that remind them they have a need. This is especially important in the run-up to peak seasons like Christmas, when batteries are needed for gifts, lights and decorations."

Tim Clark, sales manager, UK and Ireland for Panasonic Energy, says that because batteries is such a highly impulsive category, there are opportunities to make more of it, not only by secondary siting around the store, but by making sure that the main fixture is sited in a highly visible area. He believes the space occupied by tobacco gantries now dark because of restrictions on tobacco displays present the perfect opportunity to ’power up’ battery sales.

To demonstrate this opportunity to convenience retailers, Panasonic ran a six-week trial with award-winning Londis retailer Ramesh Shingadia, which boosted sales by 400%. With Panasonic’s help Ramesh switched from a low-priced brand to a combination of the best-selling brand and Panasonic.

He then looked at other ways to maximise sales, such as siting the main battery fixture in the space left blank by the tobacco gantry going dark. By relocating tobacco products to drawers under the counter and creating a dedicated gantry display for batteries, as well as trialling secondary shop-floor displays, Ramesh saw significant growth in his battery sales.

Clark says: "I would urge retailers who have the flexibility to exit their contracts with tobacco suppliers to make the best use of the highly valuable space left by dark gantries. Impulse-led categories such as batteries work well here particularly in the run-up to the seasonal sales peak."

He adds that Panasonic has worked with major supermarkets, such as Morrisons and Waitrose, and has helped grow their battery sales significantly. The company is now keen to bring that same expertise to the convenience channel.

Varta on TV

Varta has launched its first-ever UK media campaign comprising a five-month TV sponsorship package, plus out-of-home and mobile advertising.
The ’Powering the Moment’ campaign shows Varta batteries at the heart of family life; whether it’s capturing family moments on camera, using a torch to make sure there are no monsters under the bed, or the security of knowing your smoke alarm works even if it’s just because you burnt the toast. The eight, 10-second idents are airing across 110 hours of property and DIY programmes on Discovery Network’s Home and Health, Quest, Shed and Animal Planet channels, reaching 4.9 million adults over the duration of the campaign.
Natalie Carney, UK marketing manager for Varta, comments: "This sponsorship package should really help to raise the profile of Varta among our key audiences of families and DIY shoppers. Busy consumers often spend less than 60 seconds at the battery fixture and every brand promises to be longer-lasting, more powerful and more reliable than the rest.
"Varta isn’t necessarily the most recognisable brand in our market and, to be really successful, we need to change that. 
"Our key insight is that, while batteries may not be an emotional purchase, the devices they power are. Understanding this has helped us to create a campaign that connects with consumers in a more emotional and relevant way." 
The TV sponsorship will be complemented by six-sheet adverts in close proximity to B&Q stores and mobile adverts that will target shoppers when they are close to Varta stockists.