Chillers with doors_Sue and Nithy

With around 7,000 independently owned local convenience stores at risk of closure due to rising energy costs and lack of sufficient government support, reducing consumption and investing in energy efficient equipment is a surefire way to bring bills back down. 

Epsom-based C-Store Champion Sue Nithyanandan and her husband Nithy started their sustainability journey during a pre-pandemic refit, but it took a further investment last year to really make an impact on their energy consumption.


When the Costcutter retailers upgraded their 2,600sq ft store in Epsom in June 2019, they introduced energy efficient lighting and brought fruit and veg to the front of the shop, displaying it in new low level Pastorfrigor chillers. They also installed new compressors to keep their refrigeration running smoothly. “We were told we didn’t need to upgrade the cabinets, just upgrade the compressors outside,” says Sue. 

So the couple followed the advice they were given and invested £15,000 in three remote compressors. “When we were studying how the chillers worked, we could have had one compressor controlling everything,” explains Nithy. “But if that breaks down - everything goes. Now if one breaks, we have an option to switch to the other compressors and get the broken one repaired - that’s why we have three.” 

The results of the refit were instant with store sales rising 10-12% driven by chilled, while sales of bread, which had previously had the prime store entrance position, remained largely unaffected.


The refit was perfectly timed in that the store was able to offer full meal solutions to customers visiting during the covid outbreak. “People have a different take on our shop since covid,” explains Sue. “We became the local hub.” 

With multiples nearby customers weren’t short of options, but the independent soon began to shine thanks to an innovative approach to sourcing. “People had their local shops, but suddenly we had the opportunity to buy from whoever could supply it, so we became a covid secure place - the elderly saw we had everything here - why go anywhere else? It enabled people to see us,” says Sue.

“I know it was horrendous for a lot of people, but our visibility went up. We still get posts on our local Facebook group saying things like ‘amazing quality, especially for a convenience store’ - people are surprised. We became more confident.”



But despite reaping the rewards of their refit, the Nithyanandans found there was a weak link in the chain.

Apart from the new fruit and veg chillers, the remaining refrigeration was over 10 years old and it soon became clear that the compressors alone weren’t going to cut it. 

For one thing the astronomical cost of electricity meant that the older chillers’ excess power consumption was bleeding profits. 

What’s more, the couple wanted to do their bit to help the planet by reducing their carbon footprint. 

Another factor triggering their decision to invest in more sustainable equipment was the torture of having machinery breaking down during the summer.

“It was chaos trying to sort everything out when the chillers went down,” sighs Sue.

“Every year we were getting support in [to fix them],” says Nithy.

The couple’s high store standards meant that the chillers were regularly cleaned and well-maintained, so their age wasn’t immediately obvious. But once a professional took a closer look, he told them in no uncertain terms that their equipment was in desperate need of updating. “Everything looked good on the outside, but at the end of the day they were rust boxes on the inside,” says Sue. “We were having breakages regularly - leaks here, leaks there and a Jordon’s engineer told me “you’re running a Ford Cortina on a Rolls Royce engine”! 

“We had three new compressors, but the body was knackered!” adds Nithy.


The couple decided to address the elephant in the room and invested £45,000 in energy efficient Arneg Osaka chillers from Jordon Group. 

Initially Sue was a little concerned that having doors on all the chillers may put shoppers off, particularly where impulse purchases were concerned, as she had previously had chillers with curtains. “We were going to keep the soft drinks chillers open,” she says. “We were wondering whether to have it like at M&S and at train stations where they don’t put doors on chillers.” 

But she eventually gave doored chillers the benefit of the doubt and customers were quick to adapt. “I think people are coping and our aisles are quite wide, so it’s not like someone opens the door and the other person can’t get passed,” she says.

Chillers with doors_Costcutter Epsom

In fact, chilled sales have rocketed a further 10% since the new refrigeration was installed, thanks to an extra shelf of height and LED lighting, which means products are well illuminated.

The new refrigeration has also resulted in impressive energy savings.

While the food chillers run 24/7, the beers, wines and spirits chillers operate on a timer. “It goes off at nighttime when we close and comes back on an hour before we open,” says Nithy. “It was a total waste running it at night.”


The store has now achieved a 15% reduction in energy costs. “We were using about 450kilowatt hours (kWh) a day and now we are using 375kWh,” beams Nithy. “A lot of retailers don’t work out how many kWh they save. You have to really do your homework now before installing new equipment because there is such an additional cost because of the rising electricity prices.”

With soaring energy costs meaning some retailers are currently facing rates of up to 95p per kWh, the return on investment for energy efficient refrigeration is faster than ever, making the case for investing even stronger. “Everybody should update their chillers if they want to reduce their energy consumption,” urges Nithy.