By Sharan Purewal, Perry Park Stores

We have owned Perry Park Stores for 20 years, and over that time the convenience store market has become more and more competitive, with increasing operational costs and a limited access to funds. As a small business we are always looking for ways to reduce our costs, as well as increase sales and our customer base. At the same time, we’ve seen that consumers are beginning to place a lot more emphasis on business ethics and sustainability practices as they become more aware of environmental impacts. For this reason it’s crucial that businesses like ours start altering our own practices so we can cater to the demands of consumers.

Like many other businesses, one of my biggest concerns has been energy related. As a small business we have a vast range of services available in our store, including a free cash point, lottery, hot and cold food and beverages, all of which consume a lot of energy, resulting in big energy bills each month. This means that energy efficiency is really important for both our wallets and the environment, which is why we started investigating ways of reducing our consumption.

When it comes to tackling energy saving measures, budget constraints are always a worry due to the common assumption that new technologies mean more money. However, what was interesting to hear was that there are not only environmental benefits of investing in energy management, but also financial ones. For example the Carbon Trust states that a 20% cut in energy costs represents the same bottom line benefit as a 5% increase in sales.

We took this advice and our utility provider, npower, carried out an energy audit. What we learned was that there are many well-established technologies available to small businesses which can help us become more energy efficient, many of which can be purchased free of charge or at a low cost to your business. For example, AMR meters and voltage optimisation solutions, which we ourselves implemented just last year.

Voltage optimisation sounds like a complicated option but it’s a fairly simple change that involves the device being installed at the incoming supply point of your building. It ensures all electrical equipment in the premises are stabilised to a lower voltage level, reducing energy use across the board (the higher the voltage, more power and energy is consumed).

As part of our energy audit, npower found that like many other small businesses, over 75% of our equipment was not voltage-optimised. Making this simple change meant we could shave up to 10% off our total energy consumption throughout the year. This has meant savings of around £1,300 per year which has allowed us to reinvest in a lot of stock.

The use of such devices means small businesses have an opportunity to not only reduce the amount of power they consume but can also educate others on best practice energy saving measures. We’ve learnt through experience that this education element is really important. By having an energy monitoring system in place we’ve been able to educate ourselves and our staff on effective ways to manage and conserve energy, which has significantly helped curb our energy use.

Even small changes like upgrading old appliances to newer ones that have an A+ or A++ standard rating can work wonders in reducing your energy footprint and saving you money. In our case, making this simple change had to potential to reduce the energy consumption of our appliances by 10-15% compared to older models.

We’re proof of our own pudding – by making changes such as implementing new energy saving devices, upgrading white goods or equipment and introducing new energy management processes, a business can reduce its yearly energy usage by up to 19%. Given the impact which we have seen financially it has me wondering why we didn’t consider looking at our energy in closer detail sooner. After all we query other outgoings– why not energy which is a non-negotiable item on the balance sheet and simple changes could mean the opportunity for us to do much more within the store.