Steve Mand has 10 fridges in his just-under 2,000sq ft store, Turnberry News in Birmingham. He wants to modernise and consolidate and thought he had read something about some sort of grant in C-Store.
I didn't think there were any such grants about and neither did Husky, which is one of the largest suppliers to the c-store market. In fact, you can hardly get grants for anything these days. I did, however, direct Steve to the government-funded Business Link (0845 600 9006) which offers all kinds of useful free advice.
And I found a recent cutting in my newish 'ecology' file. Last November C-Store reported that the Carbon Trust is offering interest-free loans of up to £100,000 for businesses wishing to upgrade heating, lighting or refrigeration equipment to more energy-efficient versions.
Steve has rung them (0800 085 2005) and is well chuffed. "You can get anything from £1,000 to £100,000 interest-free for four years," he tells me. "So I'm going to change all the lighting as well."
He reckons that with more efficient, remote refrigeration, he won't need air conditioning. At the moment, with that number of creaky fridges, he and his customers are sweltering.
He has certainly picked the right time to go shopping. Companies such as Husky do about three-quarters of their business in the scant summer months. So I reckon the carrots should be a lot brighter at the moment. It also makes sense when you consider the cost of power these days.
I was talking to Jonathan James (deputy chairman of the Association of Convenience Stores) recently for my other column in sister magazine Forecourt Trader, and he gave me a shocking statistic that I must share. He has five stores, some with petrol, some not. At his Soham supermarket in Cambridgeshire, which he acquired in 2003, the energy bill was £26K a year. By 2007 this had risen to £63K, which he pointed out is £800 a week off his bottom line. He has not increased the refrigeration at the store and, in fact, has decreased the overnight lighting, so this is pure price rise.
Jonathan is now looking into the possibility of a wind farm - rest assured, we'll keep you posted.