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Industry forecast: cloudy at present but brighter later

It’s an uncertain time for everyone in the cooling sector, but there is cause for optimism around the corner.

As I write this, with the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo swirling around, those reports of a summer rise in cooling activity seem all too far off. Also all too far off are the ambitious new store plans of our large retailers, who now either have serious profit warning issues to deal with or serious competitive pressures to deal with.

It makes for uncertain times for all of those working in the supermarket sector, as everyone waits to see the impact on refrigeration plans.

While it looks likely that new large store programmes will be reviewed, there seems some cause for optimism that the Big Six supermarkets will be stepping up their convenience-store strategies to offset the ‘Lidl Effect’.

With the talk at Chillventa all about moving to lower-GWPs as quickly as possible, in a bid to head off ‘the 2018 Drop’ (see p4 of RAC November), we can also expect to see the retailers looking to make conversions away from R404A and perhaps R134a too.

The timing of the availability of HFO blends is of course a key element in this.

It all makes for an interesting retail landscape, and again we are grateful for fortuitous timing, in that we can discuss this at our Retail Question Time this very month. See pages 8 and 23 RAC November.

Meanwhile, those who have to engage with the construction sector are also seeing the ground shift. It is well known that the fortunes of those working in building services lag those of construction by about two years. Thus as the economy comes out of recession, the construction industry is accelerating fast, as developers have the confidence to spend their cash.

But it could be another two years or so before that burst of activity catches up with the AC and heat pump world. The good news is that this period should allow firms to get good strategies in place, ready to take advantage of the upturn.

The Cooling Awards showed that manufacturers have really optimised efficiencies and this, coupled with new technologies for reducing refrigerant charge should bode well for those specifying into the commercial building sector.

Now that the 2014 Awards is over, can I say thanks to everyone who attended, and well done to all winners – in fact, well done to everyone shortlisted, as the ‘Cooling effect’ often benefits the finalists too.

I thought it was another great night out too, but of course I am biased. See p12-15 RAC November for pictures of some of the 600-odd others who might agree.

This last month also saw the massive Chillventa exhibition in Germany. What always amazes me is a) the sheer number of innovations on show – and see p34 RAC November for part one of our review; and how many of these could be good contenders at the Cooling Awards. Dear reader, if you come across great environmental initiatives in the course of your work, do enter, or encourage an entry, in 2015.

There’s reflected glory in it for the supply chain.


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