by Stephanie Jurgenson, Executive Account Manager
As you’ve likely observed on your recent supermarket trips, grocery stores are seeing a boom in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Census Bureau reports grocery sales were up 29% in March compared to the same time last year, while overall retail sales were down 6%. However, the increased demand in grocery sales doesn’t offset a growing list of unplanned expenses making margins even tighter. Accelerated hiring of frontline workers and stockers (grocery store job postings up 12%), unprecedented demand from online shoppers, and increased sanitation and disinfecting costs have delivered uncertainty to an industry that is otherwise comfortable with predictable buying patterns and operating costs. To compound the problem, retailers are fighting to retain their existing customer base, as e-commerce availability and hygiene considerations are increasing store switching behavior, with 17% of consumers shifting away from their primary store. So now, marketing and making your store feel like the safest, most convenient, well-stocked store is not only important, but an expensive reality.
Yet, despite booming sales, the largest grocers in the United States are securing their financial positions by borrowing money. Kroger, the nation’s 2nd largest grocer with $121B in revenue, is expecting uneven sales to continue through 2020, and borrowed from a $1 billion line of credit to preserve “financial flexibility.” The impact of COVID-19 on grocers — the necessity to meet the demands of online shoppers, the fight to keep and grow customer base, tighter margins — is here to stay. The challenge ahead is how best to manage the time and expense required to adapt to these changing circumstances.
Carbon Lighthouse is uniquely positioned to serve as a source of financial stability for grocers big and small. Retail has successfully leveraged advanced technologies like e-commerce platforms to adapt to consumers and shape customer experiences. Grocers can also capitalize on technological innovations to not only navigate the immediate COVID-related challenges, but to transform into a more agile, future-proofed business for years to come. Carbon Lighthouse’s patented AI platform, CLUES®, uses advanced data analytics to deliver a range of contractually guaranteed OpEx savings for a financial return. Leveraging unique data from each store and the power of CLUES, efficiency opportunities across lighting and HVAC-R can add up to 10-30% whole store energy savings. For one supermarket chain, Carbon Lighthouse was able to uncover an average 12% annual kWH savings, equating to a savings of $1.77/sq. ft. across several stores in the portfolio, despite an LED lighting retrofit that had already been completed. At a separate store, Carbon Lighthouse was able to guarantee an annual savings of $50,000 through the implementation of advanced condenser and compressor control measures. Furthermore, Carbon Lighthouse identified opportunities to improve the functionality of existing climate control equipment, which reduces overall store energy consumption while significantly improving comfort for shoppers and staff.
Whether recommissioning of existing equipment, tightening up refrigerant management systems, or managing in-store humidity and climate, Carbon Lighthouse engineers fully advocate for clients managing the full scope of energy efficiency strategies from initial recommendations and due diligence through to actual implementation of solutions and guaranteeing financial return. The same technologies that enable us to uncover savings for existing clients are now helping them navigate through COVID. And most importantly, Carbon Lighthouse is arming our clients with the information to strategically streamline their businesses regardless of the challenges ahead.