Adande Chairman, Nigel Bell, addresses the changes in consumers’ shopping habits, the growth of the convenience retailing sector and the implications for the refrigerated display of perishable merchandise.
Pressure on housekeeping budgets has led to a change of behaviour amongst UK consumers. Shoppers are keener to shop around for value and are prepared to make more frequent shopping trips, typically to convenience stores, with fewer items in their baskets. These factors have been bad news for the big four retailers, who have experienced the slowest growth in sales for a decade.
The trend has resulted in a slowdown in the development of new, large format supermarkets. In January 2015, commercial property specialist, CBRE, reported that only 2.8 million sq ft of land is currently being developed for new grocery stores, the lowest figure since 2008. CBRE also noted that a total of 43.81 million sq ft of UK land, which is earmarked for grocery store development or has already received planning permission, was not under construction.
Growth of the convenience retailing sector
Nevertheless, the big four retailers, have confirmed their commitment to the convenience store sector, in part to meet changing consumer shopping patterns. Smaller format stores are attractive to retailers as they may be delivered with lower capital expenditure, have less impact on the trade of existing superstores and incur less planning permission issues.
The proliferation of convenience stores is however raising issues for retailers at a time when they are seeking to cut energy consumption, across their estates. Convenience stores have a higher kWh/square foot ratio than supermarkets, mainly due to the fact that a higher proportion of floor space is committed to refrigerated display.
Harsh environments for retail refrigeration
Convenience stores, especially those not purpose built for grocery retailing, are also susceptible to other factors, influencing the efficient performance of refrigerated displays and their energy consumption. In smaller stores, the proximity of refrigerated displays to the entrance door means that drafts can compromise the air curtains of open front refrigerated display cabinets. This results in cold air spillage from the cabinet, causing increased energy consumption, cold aisle syndrome and unstable display temperatures, which may compromise the shelf life of merchandise. Lower ceiling heights in smaller stores exacerbate the impact of HVAC systems on the air curtains of refrigerated displays.
Whilst some retailers and equipment manufacturers have employed glass doors on open front multi deck refrigerated display cases as a means of making energy savings and addressing the issues associated with convenience stores, it is becoming increasingly apparent that glass doors are not the perfect solution. The Carbon Trust Refrigeration Road Map even questions the value of glass doors in high traffic convenience stores: “The levels of energy saving claimed vary considerably and must be related to the level of use of the cabinet. Cabinets with doors undergoing higher usage have been shown to save little energy when compared to an open fronted cabinet…”
Glass doors act as physical barriers to shopping
There is also evidence to suggest that glass doors act as a barrier to shopping, especially in narrow aisled convenience stores. In today’s competitive grocery retailing environment, it is unlikely that merchandisers will sanction any development, which may compromise sales. In addition, there is the capital cost of fitting glass doors, together with ongoing maintenance and cleaning costs, which bring into further doubt the viability of the glass door option.
Retailers’ demands for energy savings will continue to place pressure on equipment manufacturers to develop display cases, which operate more efficiently. Whilst the jury is out on the suitability of glass doors, there are certainly opportunities for alternative technologies.
AIRCELL® – TAKING GLASS DOORS OUT OF THE EQUATION
Adande Managing Director, Ian Wood, explains how the unique and patented Aircell system addresses energy savings and the issues associated with convenience stores, without the need for glass doors.
Aircell is designed for open front, refrigerated multi deck cabinets, to deliver energy savings, temperature stability and improved customer comfort levels. We currently have refrigerated cabinets, incorporating Aircell technology, on trial at a Tesco store, displaying sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks.
Independent management of air movement
Unlike conventional open front multi deck cabinets, Aircell divides the merchandising envelope into separate cells between shelves. The smaller cells have a shorter air column and independent management of air movement. The net result is less pressure on the air curtain of each cell and a substantial reduction in cold air spillage from the case, with independent tests measuring energy savings at up to 30% compared to conventional displays. Reduced cold air spillage also limits the impact of cold aisle syndrome, which may compromise customers’ shopping experiences. Crucially, Aircell does not require back panel flow to support the air curtain, so it does not over cool food at the rear of the cabinet.
Robust air curtains for greater resilience against air cross flows
Aircell’s shorter air curtains are more robust than those in conventional open front multi decks and less susceptible to air cross flow currents, experienced in harsh retailing environments, such as convenience stores. Aircell delivers the energy savings and environmental benefits associated glass doors, without compromising the shopping experience.
We are discussing licence agreements with manufacturers for the production of cabinets, incorporating Aircell technology, which will provide them with the opportunity to offer sustainable refrigeration solutions to their retail customers.
Tel: 0844 376 0023