I recently spoke about electricity in convenience stores at a meeting put on by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to launch their Non-domestic Smart Energy Management Innovation Competition.
My former store’s electricity journey can be summed up in a handful of events. In 1989 I bought the business and it had an ice-cream display freezer, a single door soft drink chiller, four old 6ft fluorescent lights, a newspaper home delivery computer with a floppy disc drive & printer and a till.
The cost of the power used in the first year was 0.25% of turnover.
My next step was to improve the lighting by more than doubling the number of units with more efficient equipment. This made the store brighter and more appealing to customers.
But the percentage of turnover to cover my electricity bills rose to 0.32%.
In 1997 I undertook my first extension of the sales floor which meant more lighting and more refrigerated display cabinets.
The development quickly brought an increase in sales and a higher power usage, but only marginally increased our electricity cost to 0.33% of our turnover.
In 2000 I joined the Londis symbol group and took a bigger shift towards convenience with a 2.5 mtr open refrigerated display cabinet and electricity cost increased to 0.46% of turnover.
The addition of a Post Office followed in 2004 and Post Office Ltd required a certified power circuit. I got an electrician in and he replaced the consumer board as we were drawing too much power through it.
The following year we doubled the store's size which meant: more lighting, more refrigeration, air conditioning and a bake-off oven. Our electricity costs increased to almost 0.7% of turnover that year.
Those were the only occasions that I strategically consider the key equipment, but significantly power usage was not high on my agenda.
Changing consumer buying habits that have seen a significant trend toward fresh produce has required convenience retailers to change how they operate and equip their stores. More refrigeration means more energy usage, but stocking what customers want leads to higher sales.
When Mo Razzaq developed his new 2500 sq ft store four years ago his strategy was to deliver a low energy business. He wanted to equip it with a low energy lighting and refrigeration.
So, he personally undertook the research and purchasing of the equipment that he used to create his store – almost all his refrigerated display cabinets have doors.
It's no surprise that his store has a smart meter, and he monitors the power usage and cost on an on-going basis. He also has a 40-panel solar power generator on his south facing roof in Blantyre, west of Glasgow.
Mo says that his focus on lowering energy usage in the business has delivered savings of at least a third or over £8,000 this year.
Energy usage from a small sample of convenience store retailers that I have spoken to suggest that they spend between 1% and 2% of turnover on electricity – somewhat more than I spent in 1989.
The UK Government has a policy that will deliver the long-term decarbonisation of the economy.
Are you like Mo Razzaq and have designed your store with a lower energy consumption or is this something that you need to plan for?
My next article will look at what I learnt at the BEIS meeting.