Mark Wingett looks at innovative equipment that could generate extra sales for summer 2005.

Now this piece of information may require you to be seated, but the word doing the rounds at local weather stations is that we may actually get to enjoy a long and hot summer this year.

Unbelievable you may think - but if the sun does shine how many of retailers will have the equipment needed to take advantage?

This summer will see your chillers come into their own, and you could also consider investing in an ice cream machine as well.

However, before you buy the latest ice cream maker or slush-making machine, you have to get the basics right.

Musgrave Budgens Londis (MBL) head of store development Tony Riddy says: “Before you look at bringing in equipment that might add an extra edge to your store, make sure you have in place the cornerstones of any successful modern c-store - lighting, flooring and chillers. Whatever you add on after this should be appropriate to the store’s location and customer demographic.”

For retailers looking to buy their first ice cream making machine, there are several suitable ones on the market. ServEquip’s countertop unit, the Carpigiani 191, can produce five ice cream cones or three ice cream desserts per minute, and because it’s self-pasteurising it only needs to be cleaned once every 28 days.

ServEquip managing director Paul Ingram says: “Its small footprint makes it ideal for any food service operation looking to expand without incurring huge capital investment.”

Nestlé has now added a new flavour - vanilla choc chip - to the ice cream range available through its Ice Creamery dispenser. The dispenser, which is manufactured in conjunction with Richmond, costs £99 and includes pos material and merchandising aids.
Andy Battley, who runs Bawdeswell Stores in Bawdeswell, Norfolk, has already invested in an ice cream making machine.

He says: “We’ve had it now for a couple of summers and it has definitely been popular. It gives another point of difference in store, which I hoped it would. It has also generated incremental sales while people are waiting for their ice cream, and it takes up hardly any space, which is a bonus.”

If having an ice cream maker in your store isn’t your thing, Unilever believes it has designed the perfect display freezer to make the most of the summer sales opportunity.

The Maxivision is the first ever three-tiered display freezer, according to the company, and has been designed to not only display ice cream but also other frozen foods as effectively as possible.

Unilever Ice Cream and Frozen Food impulse category manager Mark Brodrick says: “Maxivision, which allows more products to be displayed but uses the same selling space as conventional cabinets, has been introduced to make ice cream and other frozen products more visible in convenience stores, which are often limited for space. The new cabinet is very colourful and looks unlike anything else in-store, which we hope will make it stand out to consumers.”

Priced at £899 the freezer comes with £300 worth of product vouchers, and according to Brodrick has “an illuminated display on all tiers and easy access for consumers choosing or retailers restocking.”

While Riddy says retailers should only invest in extra equipment if it will complement their customer profile, he also believes that the majority of consumers now expect to find a hot drinks dispenser in-store.

He comments: “It’s something we’re exploring at MBL in our Londis stores because the popularity of coffee on the go is very much linked with the growth of eating on the move. We’re looking into making this a destination point in all of our stores.”

Nescafé has recently designed new pos for its Nescafé.go branded hot-drinks dispenser, especially aimed at c-stores.

Offering a choice of hot drinks, including decaffeinated coffee and Tetley Tea, the new pos highlights the convenience of the products, which is delivered in three steps - customers select their choice of drink, pull back the protective foil and then fill with hot water from the dispenser.

Nestlé Food Services beverages category lead Katy Hilditch comments: “It’s the perfect solution for a c-store or any business which needs a quality, hot beverage offering, but has neither the resources nor the desire to invest in expensive equipment.” The dispenser, which is small enough to sit on most counters, holds 60 cups and comes either plumbed or unplumbed.

One thing that is certain, hot summer or not, consumers expect the majority of alcohol they purchase from their local retailer to be just as cold as they would find it in a pub, bar or nightclub.

In fact, research from Coors Brewers found that moving products from ambient to cold displays could increase sales by 14%.

Coors Brewers director of category development Tim Boyse comments: “In convenience and independent stores, nearly 70% of beer purchased is intended for consumption on the day of purchase, so it’s vital that every licensed c-store sells cold lager.”

To take advantage of this, Husky has teamed up with Coors Brewers to launch a new deal featuring a wide range of Carling branded fridges to match every store’s requirements.

Husky chief executive Geoff Thomasson says: “Cold beer is the consumer preference and when this is the main purchase, they don’t want to queue at a supermarket. C-stores should take advantage of this opportunity and make sure they get the right type and size of chillers for their store.”

Chillers are essential if you want to maximise your drinks sales, according to Mohammed Issa from 1st Stop 2 Shop in Dundee.

He says: “Customer expectations are rising all the time and while before you could get away with having only a small chilled section for your drinks, this is no longer the case. You only have to go into a Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local and see how much space they dedicate to their chilled drinks sections to know that you have to rethink what you’re doing in your store. I have one wall dedicated to chilled drinks, soft and alcoholic, and that as a result I’ve seen substantial increases in drinks sales over the last few years.”

If despite your efforts you find you are still short of space in your chillers for bottles of wine, Chilla have now launched a pair of rapid wine chilling units into the c-store sector.

The compact units - the Chilla 2 for two bottles of wine and the Chilla 3 for three bottles - are able to chill wines in three to six minutes, and average around 16 chilled bottles of wine per hour.

A Chilla spokesman said: “Not only can consumers chill their own wine, beer and soft drinks, the extra time spent in-store can lead to more products being purchased. Stores that invest in a Chilla unit will also have some extra space in their fridges to display other drinks, so there should be a positive knock-on effect in the form of additional drink sales.”