Recharge your sales

Batteries remain a key purchase for consumers, as they power so many day-to-day items. And the ever growing number of high-drain devices has resulted in longer life batteries. The rechargeable segment is also seeing a rise in popularity as consumers begin to see the cost saving element as well as the green credentials.

According to Mintel the UK retail battery market is large, with Mintel estimating volumes in 2007 at 669.2 million units with a retail sales value of pound;416.8m. The market is also relatively mature and the onset of multi-packs and discounting has caused retail sales to fall back in recent years. Volumes are under pressure although it’s a combination of factors that are dragging down the market – in particular the growth of built-in rechargeable batteries with many modern electrical devices, from toothbrushes to iPods.

Vince Armitage, divisional vice-president of Varta Consumer Batteries UK, says: “The big news for the sector is the forthcoming introduction of the Batteries Directive – a European-wide environmental legislation which prohibits portable batteries being disposed of in landfill. Instead they have to be collected and recycled, this will come into force on September 26 across Europe.

“It is the producer – the party who places the batteries on the market – who is obligated under the directive, although there is still some confusion around this topic – at present it’s the manufacturer, importer of the products or private label owner which is considered a producer. It’s important to remember that this role applies whether the producer places the product on the market directly themselves, or if the merchandise reaches the market through a third party partner such as a wholesaler, OEM or retailer.”

Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) says: “The Batteries Directive was published in the Official Journal on 26 September 2006. The UK and all other Member States now have a deadline of 26 September 2008 to transpose the provisions into national law.

“The Directive seeks to improve the environmental performance of batteries and accumulators and of the activities of all economic operators involved in the life cycle of batteries and accumulators, eg producers, distributors and end users and, in particular, those operators directly involved in the treatment and recycling of waste batteries and accumulators.

“When the Directive is transposed in the UK, the Directive will reduce the quantity of hazardous and non hazardous waste batteries going to landfill and increase the recovery of the materials they contain. This is consistent with the objectives outlined in the Government’s Waste and Sustainable Development Strategies.”

With this in mind Varta believes that the benefits of rechargeable batteries will become more apparent.

Armitage says: “Round cell alkaline batteries are reaching their limits in terms of performance and capacity, and the market has also reached a plateau in terms of volume. Consumers are becoming more aware of the environment and want to play their part.

“The rechargeable market offers a significant opportunity for both the wholesaler and the retailer as long as they get the communication message right.”

Varta has launched a 15 minute ‘fast charger’ with a 12 volt adaptor for the car and later this year a ‘power station’ charger, which can charge up to eight cells at a time, and a travel charger will be launched

Mike Doole, managing director of Uniross, says: “Customers are becoming increasingly ‘green’ and ‘ethical’ in their thinking, which we have had to respond to. It’s not enough to just offer a product – people now want to know the impact of the products they buy on the environment. As ethical behaviour is becoming a greater part of customers’ lifestyles, battery chargers are beginning to reflect that. We’re seeing a shift from ugly bland boxes that take a long time to charge, to chargers that no longer look our of place in a living room, offer customers a variety of recharge options and can be adapted to fit into their particular way of life.”

Uniross is endorsed by the WWF and is working to make battery charging a way of life with its new range of products. It has launched the Nomad a portable power hub with USB adaptor, the Solar Charger and its Hymini Wind charger can be clipped on a bicycle to charge while cycling.

Doole adds: “Our customers have told us they want to recharge batteries wherever they are – with convenience and simplicity being the key. Ultimately we want people to ditch their disposable lifestyles so we hope the new additions to our range inspire people to do exactly that.”

Uniross says over half of its sales comes from new technology batteries, the Hybrio technology allows the battery to be used straight out the pack and when it runs out is can be recharged up to 1,000 times.

Doole says: “Rechargeable batteries are the only segment of the battery market which is in growth. Wholesalers and the cash and carry market are very important for us. They are the key route to market for many independent retailers and smaller wholesalers. Wholesalers should be advising their customers on the best rechargeable battery brands to sell, not just the best battery brands.”

Paul Lettice, trade communications manager at Procter and Gamble, says: “Duracell is the UK’s number one alkaline battery brand and remains at the forefront of technological innovation within the market. The rechargeable market is currently worth pound;51.4m in retail value, which is twice the size of the zinc carbon battery market, and is therefore a key area for growth in the category overall.”

Duracell has revised its portfolio to include Duracell Plus, the core line, and Duracell Ultra, which it says is the longest lasting Duracell alkaline ever, whatever device it is used in.

Lettice adds: “We know that the number of devices in use in the UK is on the rise, and that portable power solutions are becoming more and more essential for consumers. The new range of general purpose Duracell batteries is set to meet the needs of consumers for long lasting power. We expect that these new products and product improvements will help retailers by increasing trial in store and, with today’s increasingly hectic lifestyles, attract more consumers to the many benefits of using quality batteries to power their devices.”

Taking note of the growing trend in rechargeable batteries, Duracell has developed the Pocket Charger, Instant Charger and Active Charge Cells. The Active Charge cells come pre-charged like traditional cells, but can also be fully recharged. The Pocket Charger and Instant Charger can both recharge devices through USB ports. The Pocket Charger uses AA and AAA cells, while the Instant Charger is a high capacity lithium battery that can be recharged over a hundred times though a laptop or USB outlet.

Energizer says alkaline batteries are worth pound;263m while rechargeables and specialist batteries are worth pound;38m and pound;17m respectively. It says the total battery market is flat but Energizer is pushing growth in key sectors.

Boke Boddin, marketing manager at Energizer, says: “The UK is a nation of ‘always on’ technophiles who don’t consider any time as dead. The explosion of power-hungry devices in the last five years has seen battery manufacturers unleash more premium, longer-lasting batteries onto the market in a bid to satisfy the thirsts of digital cameras, MP3 players and the like.

“Energizer has teamed up with Apple’s ‘made for iPod’ programme to create the Energi To Go Charger for the iPod – a unique piece of kit running on just two AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries. Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries can keep people connected for longer, lasting seven times longer in digital cameras and five and a half hours longer in MP3 players than leading ordinary alkaline batteries.”

According to Energizer, Ultimate Lithium grew by 150% during the festive season when on TV compared to the same period a year earlier and it holds number one share in five out of six chemistries: rechargeable batteries, chargers, photo lithium, specialist and carbon zinc.

According to Panasonic, the UK battery market continues to be dominated by alkaline, as today’s high power products require longer lasting batteries.

Panasonic has responded to this with its Special Power batteries with alkaline technology, designed to last up to four times longer with a shelf life of five years.

Panasonic says consumers want more from batteries, even though not everyone knows the difference between zinc and alkaline technology. Zinc batteries are designed for low power everyday products and alkaline batteries are designed for use in a variety of high power appliances such as digital cameras, electric toys and radios.

Tim Clark, marketing manager of Panasonic, says: “With the current economic downturn, shoppers are more than ever looking for high performance batteries at a competitive price. That is why it makes more sense that ever to stock an entry level alkaline battery, from a trusted brand.”

Panasonic is launching the Evoia battery which comes with an endorsement from The Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s number one long lasting AA alkaline battery. The Guinness World Record logo will feature on pack along with the long lasting credentials. The Evoia range is designed to deliver performance in a wide range of appliances, from remote controls to digital cameras. It also has a seven year shelf life, aiming to deliver a longer service life

Rechargeable batteries are also becoming more popular and Panasonic has developed the Pocket Energy, a portable energy pack to power or recharge a USB chargeable device.

Clark says: “Rechargeables, which currently have a 7.5% value market share, are increasing in popularity due to consumer concerns about the environment coupled with the growth in appliances such as iPods.”

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=== Tips for maximising battery sales from Panasonic. ===

l Batteries are generally not a planned purchase. 75% of battery buyers don’t plan to buy batteries when they enter a store so visibility of your battery display is crucial.

l Consumers need to be reminded and encouraged to buy batteries and so retailers should place them in key impulse areas.

l 40% of consumers getting to the battery shelf fail to make a purchase due to confusion over battery types and sizes, so it is essential for retailers to make the fixture easy to shop.

l The optimal shelf architecture should be designed from the perspective of the consumer i.e. appliance driven.

l Retailers should ensure they stock a cross section of the most popular battery sizes AA, AAA, C, D and 9V.

l Display space should be allocated to each size in line with consumer demand.

l Dynamism can be brought to the category by providing clear communication and frequent promotions.

l The battery category can be highlighted at different times of the year with seasonal displays.

Source PBSE Consumer Research 2001-2007

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