That rechargeable batteries will outsell disposables might sound a little far-fetched when you consider that rechargeables account for just 10% of the market, but the tide is turning. But it’s changing because it has to. A new EU Battery Directive comes into force on September 25 which applies to all portable batteries placed on the market after that date. It bans most NiCad batteries, excluding items such as power tools and emergency lighting. And it also includes a requirement that all batteries carry a ‘crossed-out dustbin’ symbol to indicate that when they run out they should not be thrown away as part of household waste. Varta Consumer Batteries UK divisional vice-president Vince Armitage says that as yet there has been no decision made on how end-of-life batteries will be collected for recycling. “But it is expected that it will be a combination of municipal sites, doorstep collecting as part of weekly refuse rounds, and collection points in various retail outlets such as supermarkets and petrol stations – all methods which have already proved successful in other European countries.” The aim is to minimise what goes into landfill. The Directive’s target is to collect 25% of batteries by 2012 and 45% by 2016. Everything collected has to be recycled. Of course, collection points in stores could be a headache for c-store retailers with limited space, but Armitage is hopeful that because they are typically small stores selling a small amount of batteries compared with the grocery and electrical superstores, they might be excluded. Recycling is one reason consumers might turn more to rechargeables, and the other is cost. Armitage says a rechargeable battery typically pays for itself after its third charge, and the latest rechargeables are much better than previous ones. Many come ready-charged so consumers can use them straight away and they hold their charge for longer. Says Armitage: “We believe the time is right for consumers to recognise the benefits of rechargeable batteries. This is due to a number of reasons: alkaline batteries are reaching their limits in terms of performance and capacity; the market has reached a plateau in terms of volume; the Battery Directive is coming into force; consumers are more aware of the environment and want to play their part; and in today’s economic climate consumers are looking for ways to save money.” Armitage reckons the rechargeable market offers a significant opportunity for retailers, but he adds: “Retailers have not yet realised the opportunity that rechargeables bring. This means they are not presented in a way that will attract and entice the end user to buy. Often the rechargeable is a ‘minority product’ on battery displays and not given any standout against the traditional one-use products.” Armitage says Varta wants to make recharging as convenient as possible for consumers. The company has an entry-level charger with batteries which has a recommended retail price of £12.99. In addition, it recently launched the Ready2Use pre-charged product. In Germany, which is one of Europe’s biggest rechargeable markets, the company says the product has achieved the number-one selling position with almost a 60% share. Of course, Varta has lots of competition. Duracell’s brand manager Chris France says rechargeables is where the growth is coming from and it’s his company’s intention to be number one in that sector of the market. Procter & Gamble is relaunching its Duracell rechargeables range with three new products: Pocket Charger, Instant Charger and Active Charge cells. The latter comes pre-charged for use straight out of the pack like traditional cells, but they can also be fully recharged for energy efficient, long-lasting power. P&G says they hold up to 75% of their power for up to a year when not in use. Meanwhile, Energizer has relaunched its rechargeables range with sleek, modern units where charge time takes as little as two hours. The range includes a portable charger for people on the go; a USB charger; the Quattro charger, which can accommodate AA, AAA and even 9V batteries; and the Quattro Rapide fast charger. Energizer marketing manager Boke Boddin reckons the perfect entry-point charger for smaller stores is the Energizer Mini, which is suitable for two AA or two AAA batteries, or a combination of both. Uniross’ range of rechargeable batteries was relaunched earlier this year. The products are endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund and come in 100% recycled and recyclable packaging. Recommended retail prices start at just £4.99.
Record breaker
Each year battery manufacturers claim that their product is the longest lasting, but Panasonic has gone one better – its new Evoia battery appears in the 2009 edition of the Guinness World Records as the longest-lasting battery ever. The record was broken in Japan where the battery goes under a different name – Evolta – but the battery is the same as the Evoia available here in the UK.
The battery outperformed competitors in common industry tests, and so has entered the Guinness World Records as the world’s number-one long-lasting AA alkaline battery. As such, it’s the first battery to receive Guinness World Records recognition. Evoia replaces Digital Extreme Power, but Panasonic says it has a new structure, new materials and a new production process. It is available in four sizes – AA, AAA, C and D. The AA and AAA batteries, which are more commonly used in high-drain appliances, will feature the new world record-breaking technology, while the C and D size batteries will use the company’s existing alkaline technology. The batteries have the Guinness endorsement on-pack and this will also appear on pos material. However, P&G counters by saying it has launched an innovative technological reformulation for its alkaline range that delivers improvements in both power and performance. This innovation covers core-line Duracell Plus as well as Duracell Ultra and gives them both a longer life. As a result, the company says no other alkaline battery lasts longer (based on the average testing for devices used most) than Duracell Ultra. The range has new packaging to highlight the upgrade. And the Duracell Bunny is back to promote the range via TV, print advertising, digital media and PR.
The right display
Unfortunately for many c-store retailers, batteries are just too high a value item to put out on open sale on the shop floor. Instead, they have to be stocked behind the till area. However, manufacturers don’t see that as a barrier to sales. Varta’s Armitage comments: “Retailers need to strike a balance between the batteries being seen and being watched – they need to make sure consumers can see them but staff can keep an eye on them. “Many batteries are bought on impulse so consumers need a visual prompt to remind them. We offer small discreet solutions such as clip strips for this.” Energizer’s Boddin agrees with Armitage: “Batteries are high-value items, so it is right to take security seriously. But it’s still important that batteries are easily visible to shoppers so they can consider the type they need. Countertop and secondary display units are an excellent way to display batteries – making them highly visible to remind shoppers and attract impulse purchases, but at the same time deterring would-be thieves.” Duracell’s France adds: “We’ve been working with RS McColl on display solutions for behind the till. We’ve come up with branded displays that are highly visible and really stand out. Consumers forget they need batteries – they put them in their appliance then forget about them – so they need to see them in store to remind them to buy.” Then there’s pricing, and as we hit the peak battery-buying period in the run up to Christmas we can expect loads of price promotions in the grocery multiples. Duracell’s France reckons these promotions don’t devalue the category as purchases are incremental and there can be an uplift of seven or eight times normal sales. But Varta’s Armitage advises: “Do stock the multipacks and have special prices on them - but don’t give the batteries away. ”
Battery facts
● According to IRI/GFK data, the UK battery market is currently worth £316m ● Duracell has a 51.3% share of sales ● Rechargeables, specialist and lithium batteries aimed at high-drain devices are enjoying double-digit sales growth ● 25% of all battery purchases are made on impulse – 64% of those sales are prompted by in-store displays either on the main fixture or through promotions and incentives at checkouts or secondary sites ● On average, batteries are purchased only three to four times a year ● 65% of battery buyers keep stocks of batteries ready at home. The average stockholding is eight batteries ● 40% of all potential purchases are lost due to poor displays that create confusion ● Shoppers show low brand loyalty to batteries and are willing to switch brands. Source: IRI/GFK/TNS/PBSE
Retailers’ views
David Powell, Spar Tates, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire “Christmas Day is our biggest for battery sales. We open from 10am to 2pm, but believe it or not I’ve seen people peering through the windows at 7am to see what time we open. At 10am we usually have 20 people waiting outside and most of them will want batteries. “We stock only Energizer. We’ve just had them on ‘buy one get one free’ and there are usually offers in the run up to Christmas. They’re always popular when they’re on offer.” Andrew Collier-Mays, Costcutter, Newport Village Stores, near Saffron Waldon, Essex “We were involved in the Shop Project earlier this year. Panasonic came in and sorted out our fixture. They suggested that we reposition the fixture in one, highly visible place behind the till and remove unrelated products such as razors. As a result, we saw an average weekly sales increase of 26% and total category profits up by 44%. But unfortunately since then we’ve been ram-raided and we’re in the process of putting the shop back together. The till area will be sorted shortly, in time for the Christmas rush. We sell three times more batteries in the run up to Christmas than during the rest of the year. We stick to Panasonic – people like the pricemarked packs – and also Duracell.”
Top tips
● Don’t make the fixture too complicated ● Remember that five SKUs (AA, AAA, C, D and 9V) account for 90% of the market ● Make sure your range is visible ● Stock a comprehensive range of batteries in terms of price and performance ● Block by brand vertically and by size of cell horizontally ● Put lower-priced, lower-performance products on the left and higher-priced, higher-performance products on the right ● Remember 40% of sales occur between September and December. Source: Duracell/Energizer/Panasonic/Varta