After staffing, energy is the convenience store industry's biggest overhead. It's also the biggest headache, as the letters and phone calls coming in to C-Store reveal.


What's it all about?

We believe the lack of proper regulation in the supply of gas and electricity allows the six large providers to take advantage of their customers, by increasing prices out of proportion to the cost of raw materials and by putting highly restrictive clauses into supply contracts which often leave small businesses paying far more than they should for their power.

Act now:
Share your tips for cutting consumption and be on the lookout for sharp practices from suppliers
We must ensure that the industry regulator, Ofgem, is given real teeth with which to bite back against these unfair tactics. Chief among these is the so-called 'rollover' clause, which establishes a narrow window in which the retailer must give notice of termination; if they miss this, they can find themselves tied into a long-term, high tariff contract.

The other way to reduce your energy bills is to cut usage, and there are huge wins to be had here, by upgrading to more efficient chilling, heating and cooking equipment, and adopting simple best practice measures such as using night blinds, putting lights on timers and keeping doors closed. Energy saving is a project the whole team can adopt, and many stores now appoint an energy champion among their staff. In cutting consumption you will also be cutting carbon emissions, so there's an environmental aspect to your cost reduction which will impress your customers.

What we've done

We launched our energy campaign as Fight the Power in 2008 and in May last year inaugurated Cancellation Day, a publicity programme intended to remind C-Store readers to give notice of termination of their energy contracts.

We've supported industry efforts to lobby government about the unfair practices within this industry and call for greater powers for Ofgem.

We have explored power- saving ideas with expert advice on energy management systems, heat reclaim units and innovative refrigeration systems, and we've run the rule over several stores to see how they have achieved massive bottom-line savings through investment in better equipment and cutting out wasteful practices.

Next steps

We will write to Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State with responsibility for reform of the energy market, and ask him to look closely at the tactics used by energy suppliers in their dealings with small shops. We'll encourage you to do the same.

We will repeat our Cancellation Day campaign to highlight the dangers of the 'rollover trap'.

We'll look at how energy brokers can help you to get the best deal, and approach the power companies themselves to persuade them to provide a fairer deal for independent retailers.

Over the coming months we will explore energy saving options around the store, from lighting to baking, air conditioning to automatic doors, and we'll show how an energy audit can help you to slash your bills with a minimum of expenditure.