Ask any convenience store retailer who is open on Christmas Day what his customers are buying and all will mention batteries. The run up to Christmas is definitely the season for buying batteries to power all those toys and MP3 players and remote controls. Your forecourt might not be open on Christmas Day but you can definitely cash in by making sure you’re in stock and ready for the pre- and post-Christmas rush.
Duracell business leader Annaliese Reekie comments: "The batteries market reaches its peak over the Christmas period with approximately 27% of annual sales delivered through November and December (source IRI/MEMRB total UK sales Nov/Dec 08).
"At this time of year, we know that effective display is essential to boosting sales, and retailers should aim to increase the visibility of batteries in store by having incremental multi-location merchandising for batteries and ideally a prominent display position.
"Shoppers tell us that what they want to see is batteries moved out from behind the kiosk and onto the shop floor, as well as seeing them on clip strips at secondary locations which can boost sales by up to 15%. However, if the back-of-till area is the only space available then the use of brand signage reminding shoppers that this store sells Duracell batteries will help raise awareness and drive impulse purchase."
Reekie says increasing awareness is critical in the battery category, as most purchases are made on impulse. "Up to 84% of shoppers claim to plan their purchase, but actually only 18% write a shopping list and batteries rarely make it onto that list.Therefore ensuring shoppers know where batteries are available will play a clear role in boosting sales."
Some manufacturers offer special counter-top display units. Varta, for example, has one which holds 10 packs of four AAs.
Sticking with Varta, it seems to be the only battery manufacturer with anything new this year. The company has revamped its range in a bid to make it easier for consumers to pick the right battery for the right device. Called Tri-Energy, the new three tier range uses device icons, colour coding, detailed point of sale and strong imagery to help consumers identify which type of battery is right for them.
In Tri-Energy, yellow represents long-lasting power. Batteries in this range such as the Varta LongLife Extra alkaline and Varta Longlife Accu rechargeable 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. Batteries in this range such as the Varta High Energy alkaline and the Power Accu rechargeable have been engineered to give maximum power to energy-hungry devices such as remote controlled cars.
Finally red represents precise energy. Batteries in this range including the Varta Max Tech alkaline and the Professional Accu rechargeable are specially 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.
In addition, across the complete Varta alkaline range, performance has been improved by up to 10% while device icons have been added to the packaging to make selection quicker and easier. The on-pack information has been simplified with the use of sporting analogies a long distance runner for the yellow long-lasting power, a shot-putter for the blue powerful units and an archer for those batteries in the red precise category.
The range is supported by a comprehensive retail pack which includes standalone display units with information wings, ’product choice wheels’, as well as information panels for shelf edges.
Meanwhile many batteries are sold on promotion, particularly in the grocery multiples where ’extra free’ packs seem to be the order of the day.
According to Tim Clark, sales manager UK and Ireland for Panasonic Energy, value is the number one sales driver for batteries at the moment: "Consumers are going for brands as long as they are trusted brands. Cheaper brands that are not household names are out there but research reveals that people are looking for trusted brands that deliver."
And Panasonic is currently delivering on value as its Xtreme Power is available in a ’four plus four free’ promotional pack from leading wholesalers. Varta too is running a ’four plus four’ promotion available through CDG (Convenience Distribution Group).
Meanwhile, although everyone in the battery market seems very excited about rechargeables they still only represent a small proportion of sales. Indeed according to IRI/MEMRB data they generated £23.8m-worth of sales in the year to May. Sales of chargers have declined while sales of rechargeable cells have grown by 4%. This means that while fewer new consumers are entering the marketplace, consumers who have already bought into rechargeables are buying and using more cells.
Duracell’s Reekie comments: "Additionally, research suggests that shoppers are including both rechargeable and traditional alkaline cells in their repertoire, and choosing Duracell to deliver the value and performance they are familiar with."
Vince Armitage, divisional vice president, Varta Consumer Batteries concedes that converting more consumers to the benefits of rechargeable batteries will take time.
"Retailers and manufacturers need to focus on the environmentally-friendly and money-saving messages to capture the attention of consumers.
Secondary messages such as improved performance, shorter charging times and ready-to-use units straight from the pack should also be used to help encourage consumers to make the switch."
When it comes to chargers, Varta says its Backup Charger is ideal for forecourts. It comes with two ready-to-use AA batteries and can charge two AA batteries through its USB function via a laptop. Varta says the charger is also ’future proof’ as it comes with the ’common phone charger adapator’, which is due to be introduced by all the major mobile phone companies next year.
EU Battery Directive
Batteries need to remain top of mind even after the peak selling season this year, as the new EU Battery Directive requires retailers who sell more than 32kg of batteries in a year (around 333 x AA 4-packs) to install in-store battery collection boxes from February 1, 2010.
All types of portable household batteries must be accepted, not just those the retailer sells, and regardless of whether a customer makes a purchase.
Retailers also need to provide information to customers at the point of sale about the return of used batteries. Used batteries will then be picked up and recycled by battery compliance schemes, paid for by the battery producers.
The Batteries Regulations aim to reduce the environmental impact of batteries by reducing the amount being sent to landfill. The UK has targets to increase collection of used batteries from 3% (2007 figures) to 25% (7,500 tonnes) by 2012 and to at least 45% by 2016.
If you sell fewer than 32kg of batteries you do not have to collect waste cells, but you can do so if you wish. However, you will not be entitled to free collection by a battery compliance scheme.
For more information call the Defra Helpline on 08459 33 55 77.