Whatever the job, if you want to do it successfully then it’s important that you have the right tools to do it. Whether it’s an epos system that monitors transactions and stock levels, or lighting that will make your store shine while not costing the earth, it’s essential that retailers invest wisely in the right equipment to help their stores thrive in this competitive marketplace.
Londis retailer Dee Sedani is a big advocate of new technologies to make his two stores in Derbyshire run smoothly. Dee says that retailers can be wary of having new equipment in their stores as they can’t see beyond the initial cost. “Retailers can be naive,” he says. “They don’t see the long-term benefits to having the best equipment in their store. They need to figure out how it will save them money down the line and how soon the payback will be. Store owners need to invest in their businesses if they want them to thrive. There’s really no point in cutting back just for the sake of it.”

That’s how much more retailers spent on crime prevention measures this year compared with 2010, according to the British Retail Consortium

Time is money
When he’s deciding on whether to add to his arsenal of technological innovations, Dee assesses whether it will free him up to spend more time elsewhere in the store. “When I look at any piece of equipment, the first thing I ask myself is ‘Will it save me time?’, because that’s invaluable. Then I see if it will increase my margins and if the return on investment is workable.”

In a time-saving move, Dee is introducing a refrigeration display unit that automatically brings stock to the front of the unit. Made by Bevtrac, the spring-feed tray fits into standard size refrigerator units and ensures that shelves always look full.

Food to go
The best route to hot sales
Food to go is a lucrative area for the convenience sector so it’s no wonder many retailers are looking to take the plunge. Stephen Clifford, marketing controller of supplier Country Choice, offers some advice for those interested in installing a food-to-go offering.

“Most retailers start with a relatively small food-to-go offer, but they need to ask how easy it is to expand their equipment solution if the category proves successful,” says Clifford. “Country Choice units complement each other so it’s easy to combine hot and chilled sections - you can even add a coffee unit and housing in the same profile.” 

Clifford says that retailers shouldn’t skimp on quality to keep costs down. “It is worth paying for something that has been specifically designed for the purpose. Retailers may also find that the more expensive units are more energy efficient and will therefore save them money in the long run,” he points out. 

Clifford adds that while it’s important to speak to their peers, retailers should take into account individual circumstances. “Be mindful of the fact that someone else’s set-up may not be exactly the same as yours,” he says. “However, even if it’s not exactly the same it is worth talking to them about ease of installation, cleaning, maintenance and reliability of the equipment in general.”

Country Choice has recently launched an open-fronted self-serve unit to cater for the growth in demand. 

Cuisine de France has also got in on the self-serve act with its latest equipment. The counter-top unit measures less than half a metre in width, allowing it to be placed safely on shelves without taking up too much room.

Dee believes this device will save him and his staff two hours a day, which can be spent in other areas of the store. “The equipment costs about £1,000 so I expect that within three months the Bevtrac system will have paid for itself,” he says. “It’s a no-brainer really. Three months is not long to wait for payback.”

Aside from stocking issues there are plenty of other areas within a store where a retailer can save some time if they are willing to invest. Dee is in the process of installing electronic shelf-edge labels in both stores. Ever the innovator, Dee believes he will be the first convenience store retailer in the UK to have them.

“It’ll be a bit different to what has been before, but as it links directly into the epos system it’ll make widespread price changes - such as after a new rate of VAT - a lot easier,” he says.

The Pricer electronic shelf-edge labels are distributed in the UK by Herbert Services and Solutions and can be integrated with epos systems to create quick pricing changes.

Business development manager Raj Sangha says this equipment will save retailers money. “It’ll cut down on pricing errors and allow retailers to adjust their entire range from the back office if they need to,” he asserts.

Supply and demands
When you’ve decided to splash out on new equipment it’s equally important that it is installed correctly to ensure that you don’t face unforeseen costs further down the line. Nigel Shorthouse of Spar in Brignorth, Shropshire, experienced the benefits of employing a competent supplier when fitting out his new 2,430sq ft store with refrigeration and condensing units. Nigel wanted the store to have a strong emphasis on fresh and chilled produce so he hired the Jordon Group to install the refrigeration system. He was also faced with having to meet strict building regulations which meant he was forced to consider carefully which type of condensing units were used for the air-conditioning.

“Due to the close proximity of residents we had to ensure that the noise was kept to a minimum,” he says. “Considering the noise levels of commercial condensing units, this could have been a problem. However, Jordon was able to install a heavy-duty extraction unit that reduced the noise without affecting the quality of the condenser.”

Crime-fighting tools
Safe and sound 
The riots earlier this year in England highlighted the need for retailers of all sizes to have adequate security equipment. Even though the riots have been described as a “once in a lifetime” incident, retailers need to protect their businesses.

Dilip Patel of Londis in Clapham has recently invested in a Burton Raid Control Counter Safe (pictured below), which can be set for a time-delay. He installed it after he became concerned about security. “We already had a safe, but that wasn’t on a time-delay, so now we keep the keys for that safe in the Burton one. If someone does then try to rob us, the safe can’t be opened for 12 minutes,” says Dilip. “We have two under the counter and they cost about £100 each.”

Dilip’s solution was a relatively low-cost one. Loomis’ SafePoint i-range offers a selection of safes at a range of price points. There are four different products offering a choice of insurance on your cash from the moment it’s placed in the safe, to instant counting and validation of your takings. 

Retailers who operate a self-fill ATM can also make use of the SafePoint i-station, which tracks cashflow from every shift.

Nigel adds that it’s important to remain hands-on when undertaking any major installations to ensure you remain fully in control. “I was on-site the whole time, working alongside the team, and it all went perfectly,” he says. “You have to know what’s going on in a project such as this and ensure that your business is being taken care of.”

Dee says he views choosing suppliers as a serious business. “Whoever they are, they’re doing a job for me so I interview them like I would any member of staff,” he says. “I have a list of questions I ask and I give them marks out of 10. I ask them about the best work they’ve done, if there have been jobs they haven’t been happy with, if they have had complaints. If they answer honestly it’s fine, but anyone who says they’ve had no problems is probably lying. I want to know how they’ve dealt with problems and solved them.”

He also makes sure to shop around. “I usually interview four suppliers to get a rounded view of the market,” he says. “Those who make it through the interview stage go through to phase two, which breaks down costing.” 

He says that this may sound extreme, but it’s important to ensure that the job will be done to the best standard possible. “If you’re investing any amount of money, you have to be sure that it’s being well spent and that the job will be done properly,” he says. “The last thing you want is a company that will vanish half-way through a job, or suffer shoddy workmanship in your business.”