zero waste refill hub

A refill station concept rolling out in independent convenience stores is generating £750-£2,500 in weekly sales, according to its founder, Gary Kemp.

The convenience consultant and former symbol group advisor launched Zero Waste Refill Hub last July, and has since launched self-serve refill concepts in more than a dozen sites for clients including Mid-Counties Co-op, Jempsons and David Knight’s Budgens of Hassocks.

He said refill stations were making the leap across from specialist shops to convenience stores, with major brands such as Kellogg’s now making lines available for independent stores to range in dispensers.

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“It suits convenience stores normally larger than 1,800sq ft, but we have added ranges successfully in smaller stores.

“It works best for locations facing strong local competition, such as an Aldi opening nearby, or a Co-op across the road. We installed one in a 1,000sq ft post office competing with a Co-op and it completely changed their standing.”

A 2m bay requires an £6,500 equipment outlay but drives £750-£2,500 in weekly sales at 40% margin, giving a six-to-22- week payback period.

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Despite the merits, retailers have reported issues with refills. In 2019, The Real Food store in Exeter’s co-manager Rob Dickinson told betterRetailing they relied on “trial and error” on ranging, resulting in capital being tied up in slow sellers.

Asked about this challenge, Kemp said his service made refills more practical and efficient. “What I offer is a one-stop shop. We sort the containers, equipment, suppliers, scales, branding, installation, staff training, legal compliance and we use our data to remove that trial and error. The range will be at least 85% right from day one.”

He added there are more than 550 potential lines for dispenser units from wholesalers Queenswood and Hunts alone.

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Kemp said: “There are four main categories to think about – cereals and muesli, cupboard essentials, nuts and seeds, and snacking lines like Bombay mix, chocolate-covered nuts and pick-and-mix sweets.”

He said under-30s and over-65s were key audiences. “Older people love it because it enables them to buy how much they want. At 19p per 100g of rice, it gives them better flexibility on a budget.

“At the other end, schools are promoting sustainability which drives sales of snacking lines and drives interest from their parents. The gap is in the middle. People with fastpaced lifestyles are harder to engage.”

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He said catering the ranging based on the prevalence of these population segments was the key to getting it right, as are staff training and processes.

“It has to be simple to use, and have scales that remove the container weight, clear signage, drip trays and knowledgeable staff. Whenever a customer is walked through the process, nine times out of 10 it ends in a sale.”

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