When Binny Amin began his career in retail he expected to become an expert in customer service, negotiating with suppliers and people management.

What he probably didn’t expect was that in just two short years he’d become an expert in energy efficiency. But that’s exactly what has happened.

And with Binny now reaping the rewards of a more than 50% reduction in his energy bills, down from £3,200 a quarter to £1,200, it’s certainly been worth the effort.

A refit of the family Londis store in Blean Village near Canterbury in the summer of 2010 seemed like the perfect opportunity to “get ahead of the game” by investing in energy-saving technology.

A small selection of LED lights were installed at the front of the store, but with chillers accounting for almost 60% of the store’s energy consumption, Binny knew that chiller doors was the area to focus on.

“I’d heard a lot about them via other retailers and in the trade press, but was still worried that the doors might harm sales and the general look of the store,” Binny explains. “However, with our energy bills only going one way, up, and rumours of future energy efficiency regulation circulating, I decided to cast my doubts aside and see if they could work for us.”

Binny says that with the help of his Londis regional sales manager and Delta refrigeration, he examined all of the possible options including Perspex or glass doors, with both conventional or sliding opening.

“In the end we opted for conventional lightweight glass doors. We decided against Perspex as the panels can bow with the temperature and are more prone to scratching and can lose their transparency after time. We then tweaked the design to ensure that doors were right for our store. This is a real family store and I was worried about children getting their fingers trapped between the glass doors, so Delta fitted soft rubber seals around the edges.”

Smart green transfers placed around the handholds explain to shoppers that “doors save energy” and also prevent the glass from getting dirty.

Three new low-energy cabinets for chilled wine and groceries were fitted, all of which have the glass doors, and energy-saving glass doors were retro-fitted onto an existing Arneg multideck chiller.

“As soon as I saw the doors in place all my doubts vanished and I knew I had made the right decision,” Binny says.

“I didn’t expect them to look as smart as they do - they lend the store an instantly fresh, clean and professional look.”

And in addition to the massive energy savings, Binny also believes that the doors have played a crucial role in helping the store to grow its basket spend. “The doors have made us think much harder about the way in which we merchandise products in the cabinets. As a result, we’ve started doing lots of linked deals such as soft drinks with pizzas, which are working really well. Basket spend has grown from £3.26 to £6.79 since the refit.”

Wastage has also fallen, he points out. “The shelf life and quality of our fresh fruit and vegetables has improved since we had the doors fitted, which means we’re selling more and throwing less away,” Binny explains.

Having the door as a barrier also prevents items from being placed over the air grills at the base of the chillers, which can make them work much less effectively, Binny adds.

The doors, which have also created a far more comfortable in-store temperature, really come into their own in the summer months when they require less than half the power output used by standard open cabinets.

All in all, Binny says that the doors will have paid for themselves in just over two years, making them “one of the best investments” he’s ever made.

However, Binny’s keen to stress that his focus on energy saving isn’t over. “We’re also paying very close attention to developments in the LED lighting market, and will look to invest further here in the future.

“I’m also constantly monitoring energy prices to ensure that I’m getting the best deal and not being rolled over onto some new extortionate contract, which is something that I worry not enough retailers do,” Binny adds. “With costs rising across the board, energy consumption is one thing that we retailers really can control.”■

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