Charge Up Energy Conservation Sales*

“It’s a win-win situation,” says Gordon Dunn of Dunn’s Pro Hardware in North Bay, Ont. He’s talking about energy conservation promotions that save customers dollars in these environmentally-conscious times. “If the sales reps can get the best of their products across to us, the consumer wins, we win and the manufacturer wins.”

Across Canada, fall energy saving ideas initiated by provincial utility companies and Power Smart Inc., a consortium that includes international and 18 major Canadian utility companies, that enable retailers to sell weatherstripping, insulation, interior sealants, energy-saving light bulbs, motion detector lights, storm windows, thermostats and low-flow showerheads, faucet washers and aerators.

The promotions are geared toward the DIYer. Summer’s heat and pesky insects make homeowners more aware of drafts and gaps around doors and windows. By the fall, they’re ready to tackle small reno jobs to winterize their homes.

D.H. Howden & Co. Ltd. , in London, Ont. distributes flyers to promote energy conservation programs from August through to November. “It makes for a good promotion for our dealers to tie into,” explains Bill Wilson, vice-president, merchandising. Howden has 450 Pro Hardware and Do-it center franchise dealers involved in the conservation promotions.

“As you’re going into winter, it really is part of our major selling campaign. And if you look at something like caulking, it’s a major time of the year for sales, so you can do some extra promotions to make it work.”

October is Power Smart Month at Power Smart Inc., which was founded by B.C. Hydro several years ago. Creative marketing campaigns provide about 3,000 stores across Canada with topic-oriented promotion packages, POP signage, displays and information material to inform customers about energy conservation products.

“Our flyers drive customers into the stores…and when the consumer gets in there, if the store is merchandised properly, it works very well,” says Wilson. Stores, he continues, “use up to four feature-ends to display product, wire banners, POS signage. But some use strictly product. They use the whole area and in their signage they try to convince the customer of the benefits of saving dollars with energy-wise products.”

As consumers become more energy conscious and are exposed to co-op ads, media, and in-store signage that talk up the benefits of energy conservation, retailers recognize that they need to be more aware of product features.

Dunn, his co-owner wife, Audrey, and their 11 full-and part-time staff offer customers a wide selection of merchandise in different categories. They carry seven different energy-conservation timers, all recommended by Ontario Hydro and displayed in the 48 feet they devote to energy conservation in their 5,600 square foot store.

“We have this rack right in the middle of our aisle for anybody that’s interested. We inquire what their needs are, what they want to do with the bulb and then we steer them over to the right brochure. And then, instead of the normal spotlight, we say that we also have a Capsylite or halogen or Supersaver bulb that’ll give the same results, but using less energy.”

If a brochure is available, it’s used by staff members to generate interest in energy conservation and specific products. “You’ve got to marry the customer’s basic needs with their pocketbooks, especially during these times,” says Dunn, whose customers often enter the store with questions related to Ontario Hydro’s television ads. He advises retailers: “Show the customer how using that timer is going to save them money and fulfill the needs they never even thought about in the first place.”

Utility companies aren’t the only organizations that work hard to promote energy saving products. General Electric offers a $1,000 shopping spree to promote caulking, while some lighting companies also offer rebate coupons to sell energy-efficient merchandise.

The Nova Scotia Power Corp. put together energy conservation packages wrapped in hot -water tank insulating blankets. Staff at Hector Building Supply in Pictou, N.S. used them to help persuade customers to buy low-flow showerheads. By turning in their old showerheads those customers received a $5 cash rebate.

“We advertised quite aggressively using local print and in-store advertising. We sold around 300 units,” says store owner Allen Johnson, who discovered that customers were initially slow to respond to the energy saving programs.

Hector Building Supply devotes five per cent of the store’s 4,000-square-foot space to 300 energy conservation SKUs, not including windows. During the fall, the store promotes mini-packs of insulation, air exchangers with heat recovery, fibreglass and Low-E glass.

Dunn at Dunn’s Pro Hardware is another retailer who doesn’t waste opportunities to promote energy savings. “When you’re talking to them about weather stripping or lightbulbs, then it’s easy to say, “Well, what are you doing when you plug in your car or your Christmas lights? Have you ever considered using a timer to streamline the exact amount of hours that you want to use?'”

Like any smart retailer, Dunn recognizes that strong energy conservation promotions open the door to easier sales of related products–and long-term savings for satisfied customers.

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