Be it fridges, lighting, shelving or epos, there’s always something new for retailers to consider spending on. Here retailers review their investments

Making use of new in-store equipment and display solutions can make your store more attractive, more profitable and cheaper to run. What’s not to like? Well, there’s the investment needed for a start, and the gamble that the equipment will do what is promised. But many retailers advocate the benefits of taking that risk in order to future proof their store.

Rav Garcha, who owns five Nisa stores in the West Midlands, says investing in new equipment is part and parcel of being a strong retailer.

“I’m interested in the technology side of things, but us retailers look at these things as part of our business plan. It’s like with anything that can bring us profits, whether it’s a new Mars bar that’s selling well and we’re all talking about the sales it’s returned, or whether it’s a new air-conditioning unit that is energy efficient; we are interested in knowing more about it and will consider getting it in our store. You almost have to be an expert in everything you do as a retailer.”

When it comes to buying new equipment there is so much innovation that it can be hard to know when to buy and even harder to know when to stop.

“There’s a lot out there and when you invest in a piece of kit you have to see it out, even if you know there are other options,” Rav adds. “It’s like if you buy an electric car and then the flying car comes out and you think ‘ Oh, I should’ve got that’.”

Rav ensures he puts a lot of thought into every investment he makes. “We’ve got into the habit of really questioning the payback that we will get from each investment. I look into lots of reviews from other retailers.

“If I take a big gamble on a new piece of kit then I will usually let people know through Twitter or WhatsApp and other retailers always want to be updated on how I’m finding it as we need to learn from one another.”

Rav has invested in many new technologies, but one particularly good investment, he says, has been his horizontal cigarette vending machine. It may have been a high ticket item, but it has allowed him to make more of the space behind his counter by putting spirits there, increasing his profits.

“I went to see a supplier at the NCS and looked at the equipment and when I was told the price I walked away and thought ‘I’ll never do it’, but as the atmosphere around tobacco changed I started to see the value of it,” he explains.

“I implemented it in two stores and this improved my margin, improved my stockholding, retained my high level of sales and allowed me to increase the breadth of range of spirits, so that’s had a knock-on effect on sales in that category.”

Rav explains that this investment led to increased margin on tobacco, because people can no longer see the prices of the cigarettes so opt for brands they know well and which are often more premium.

Tobacco vending machines aren’t the only in-store solutions to increase sales.

Harry Goraya has recently installed a 75in media screen, supplied free by Hi Street Digital Media, in the window of his shop in Rosherville Post Office in Gravesend, Kent, and immediately witnessed the benefits this had to his footfall.

“We are perfectly located to have a media screen facing out of the shop as we have a large window front which looks out onto the busy road which happens to have two bus stops – one on either side of the road.

“This equipment has added tremendously to our ability to promote stuff in store. I’ve had people come in saying ‘I was on the bus the other day and saw that thing on your screen, where is it?’. It’s handy that we’ve had people doing that as we have been given a sure sign that the screen is working.”

Attention grabbing

The screen has even helped Harry to find new suppliers and popular npd. “We’ve had new suppliers coming asking if they can stock their product in our store and if we can advertise their product on the screen.

“We had Adonis come to us and ask us to feature their protein bars which are gluten-free, dairy-free, all-natural, and low in sugar. We ran it on screen for three weeks and they were so happy with the sales we did that they asked to run it for another three weeks.

“That’s been great for us as it’s brought in a new product we might never have had the chance to stock.”

Sid Ali, a Nisa retailer in Aberdeenshire, recommends high shelving as a great investment, saying it’s a fantastic way to keep shoppers’ attention focused on the products and therefore build basket spend.

“Previously, our shelving was 1.5 metres high and the new shelving is two metres high and so it has given us a total 30 to 40 extra metres-worth of shelving that’s allowed us to display the products better. We haven’t increased our range, but we have just ensured our products are easy to see and are displayed in areas where they’re likely to get the most interest.

“There’s some product categories where we’ve sold more in the past month than we sold in the six months before the refit. Cooking sauces, for example, were previously hidden and easy to ignore, but now they are all faced up and easy to see right next to the pasta and other ingredients they are matched with.

“Any convenience store retailer wants to maximise what they can get out of the small space they’ve got and I’d say this is a great way to do so. If you have low shelving, people’s eyes are looking around the store rather than at the products. In the supermarket we can’t ever see what’s in the next aisle and why shouldn’t it be that way in a convenience store? People worry about making their shoppers feel cramped, but you can do a lot with your lighting.”

Making space for better ranging is another big reason for investing in new equipment.

Raaj Chandarana is just undergoing a store refit at his Tara’s News store in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He is going to replace his two-door freezer with a three-door freezer to enable him to tap into a category that he thinks has great potential.

“My shoppers are living hand to mouth and don’t necessarily have the money to spend on fresh and chilled produce. I think that the frozen category will appeal to those looking for high-value meal solutions.

“The larger freezer will allow us to create a section devoted to this offer, with other ambient elements which can be paired with those 
frozen products.”

Self-serve tills designed for c-stores

James Widdowson, group operations director at Point Four, says that self-service checkouts have been proven to reduce staffing costs more effectively than any other solution within retail.

In the past, however, two main factors have tended to put c-store retailers off: the perception that these are impersonal; and the need to put high-value or age-restricted products behind the counter.

Widdowson asserts that ServeAssist from Point Four is the first self-service solution to address these issues as it has been developed in conjunction with prominent retailers, including Thornton’s Budgens and Scotfresh, to create functionality specifically tailored to the convenience market.

Says Widdowson: “One attendant maintains a customer-facing position behind two to five self-service checkout units, to provide friendly interaction when required. Customers can select items located behind the counter on the self-service touchscreen. The assistant gains visibility of every transaction via an interactive touchscreen, on which age checks, validations and interventions are performed behind the scenes.

“Products and services are passed to the customer at the end of the transaction, with an acknowledgement that the customer has received the correct product on the customer’s receipt.”

ServeAssist also integrates with automated tobacco dispensing, and Point Four’s loyalty and rewards package.


Cost savings

With costs increasing due to wage rises, pension auto-enrolment and high business rates, finding ways to create savings and increase sales has never been more important. Harry believes investing in energy-efficient or time-saving equipment can be a clear route to achieving this.

He says: “Energy costs are going up and if you don’t mitigate for those you will be paying through the nose all the time. With technology getting better and better you have the potential to reduce the amount you spend on energy and extend the longevity of your products by investing in up-to-date refrigeration.”

Self-counting tills are saving man hours at Chaz Chahal’s The Forge Simply Fresh store, in Inkberrow, Worcestershire. The two cost £3,000, but he says the investment has been well worth it for the time saved in no longer having to balance the tills at the end of every shift.

He is also able to access tills remotely so he can see what every till is scanning live.

Rav is thinking about following in Chaz’s footsteps after hearing his rave reviews, but he is also considering investing in a cash-counting machine which keeps cash safely stored away from sight, as well as saving his staff the hassle of having to count it.

“Not only is that a huge benefit in terms of security, but for someone like me who does my banking every day, that could save the staff hours of labour altogether.”

Reducing the overall running costs of his business was a big factor in Sid’s decision-making process when he renewed his refrigeration and lighting.

Sid says that simply renewing refrigeration and lighting can create energy savings of £500-£600 a month.

“Our refrigeration was getting old and expensive to run. They had open doors and we had a couple needing repairs within a short space of time. I realised I needed to invest in new equipment or I’d just have to keep paying for repairs.

“The refrigeration alone has cost £20,000 and the whole store refit has cost about £30,000. But with energy savings of about £6,000 a year we will get our money back and then some. Our last refrigeration units lasted 17 years so we can save a good £40,000 on top of getting our money back.

“We’ve also gone for LED lighting. Rather than buying loads of one type of lighting only to realise it’s not quite right, we have installed three different types so we can choose our favourite.

“Having looked at the different options I think we’ll go for the LED panels. I think these are cheap to buy and easy to install, and you can move them to exactly where you need them. They aren’t specifically made for retail, though, so they do let the light scatter everywhere.

“The new fridges have LED lights built in, plus the doors stop the dust from settling on the products so it makes the products look much more attractive. Altogether the sales are up 15% thanks to the fridges.”

There are a multitude of ways to invest in your store and improve its look and efficiency. The key is to take inspiration and advice from retailers and experts around you, and don’t be afraid to pay out for equipment with proven positive results.

Facing the challenge 

Today’s smart POS solutions offer much more than neat shelves, with benefits that can be far reaching.

“The right systems can reduce costs, product wastage and instances of theft,” points out Duncan Hill, managing director at 
HL POS Centre.

HL’s Facer pull-feeding system enables stores to get more stock onto shelves without fixtures looking confusing and untidy.

“Our Facer pull-feeding system can be used in chillers and to bring uniformity to wines, beers and spirits displays – all traditionally difficult categories to keep looking neat, while reducing wastage through breakage or stock being left languishing at the back of shelves.

“Bringing stock to the front of the shelf is quick and straightforward – staff simply need to lift up the frame, pull it towards them to bring products forward and then push the frame back into place.”

Another solution is the Optimal shelf management system. Its dividers can be positioned depending on pack sizes so fixtures with varying types and sizes of packs will be uniform and easy to shop as prices and products always match up.

Hill adds: “For chillers and freezers additional impact can be achieved for price promotions and meal deals and to highlight popular products with our Magikframe poster holder. Graphics slide in and out easily so messages can be updated as required, and the frame itself can be applied to any smooth surface, even those that are hot or cold.”