Save your energy

Costs go up, profits go down. What to do? Look at operating overheads. Regular contact Stephen Vaughan, of Handbridge Services and Londis store in Chester, wants to pass on his experience with energy savings.

It’s a big subject these days and rightly so.

Five years ago he started using energy broker Power Solutions. Skip to the present: "I’m saving £600-700 a month now," he says.

I spoke to David Cramp, partner in Power Solutions, and he says: "We work with all the energy suppliers and are tied to none. No favourites. They all pay the same commission any way and the retailer pays nothing.

"There are three ways to save electricity. Switch the lights off, or don’t put them on. Well, it’s obvious but it works."

Second: "Get the kw per hour down as far as possible."

Third: "Reduce the lights required. LED uses 70% less electricity to provide the same amount of light."

Another point: the cost of LED lighting has come down hugely. Power Solutions can often change you over to LED without changing the fittings, so the payback is only around 18 months (in Steve’s case it was less than a year).

Another point: normal lamps produce 70% heat and 30% light; with LED it’s the reverse only better, 20% heat versus 80% light, so the voltage can be dropped.

If you happen to use a lot of gas, Power Solutions has a unique selling point on this. If the company can get a price today for a future supply, it can lock it in now. It’s called forward pricing and the company thinks it is the only one to offer this. If you want to know more, you can call David Cramp direct on 01244 391513 and just mention that you read it in Forecourt Trader.

And then save some more

It’s been widely reported that the Kay Group (11-strong forecourt and c-store operator) had recently launched what it claimed to be the most efficient fuel station and store in the land. Energy-saving specialist Enviroglow was heavily involved in the project and is the other half of Stephen Vaughn’s story, which proves that, not only can you save on the software, as it were (energy supply), but also on the hardware (refrigerators, air con, smart meters and so on).

Managing director of Enviroglow, Mark Crabtree, says the firm can reduce average consumption in a c-store by 41% on a retro-fit solution ie replacing stuff.

With its shopfitting solution, whereby they get the keys and do an entire new-build kitting out, the reductions can be as high as 70%. The Kay Group was 60%.

Mark Crabtree, who can be reached on 07912 178969, says: "The average payback is 26 months. We have never gone over three years, ever." It really is worth a look-see, isn’t it?

And finally, says Steve, if you haven’t got the money but still want to make the improvements, don’t bother with the hanky-panky banky. Try LDF, specialist finance brokers. Steve has recommended them in the past to get you over those seasonal cash-flow troughs, but the company will also help you spread the cost of equipment investment. Look them up at

Get points here! Points mean prizes!

Loyalty isn’t an easy thing to achieve. If you look in your own wallet I expect you’ll have as many loyalty cards as I do. I’m loyal to a lot of different outlets and I’m not the only loyalty tart in town.

In the last issue I asked ’What price loyalty’? This brought some feedback. First up was Keith Guppy of Fuel Supply Solutions.

He writes: "There is a product that is available from Payback Loyalty. They are based in Ireland but have now installed this into several independents including Guy Warner at three Warners Budgens sites in Gloucestershire."

He explained how it works. The scheme allows retailers to give instant rewards to customers who have joined. Each member gets a key fob which they scan at the point of sale.

"So, as well as keeping customers loyal, the data gathered in the back office provides the retailer with valuable profiling data and reports so they can target specific promotions to specific members based on the buying history. To be effective this needs to be integrated into the epos system and some of the leading providers have completed this integration. We are working with HTEC and Payback in the UK."

I asked Keith what shape the rewards usually took and he said: "Most popular is free coffee, particularly following the Waitrose success. It’s normally ’Buy 4 and get the 5th one free’ or even ’Free coffee this weekend’ for all our members with any purchase; similarly with car washing. The great thing is that because you can provide suppliers with good data on buying trends and demographics, they are prepared to support promotions such as a free Kit Kat with coffee etc."

And Tony Scott, sales director from the aptly-named Key Points, got in touch to say that his company had been offering loyalty schemes to independents for over 20 years and currently operates the Gulf loyalty card programme operated in both company and dealer sites. "So... in answer to your question yes, we can offer independents a loyalty scheme and yes, it is a good one!" I’ve got the booklets showing all the partners Key Points has including Debenhams, Argos, Thomas Cook, B&Q, Homebase and so on. I don’t know how I could have missed them.