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Time to get closure on the doors on fridges debate

Usually when I mention doors on fridges to a retail refrigeration manager, it is greeted with a rolling of the eyes.

Whether to enclose or not to enclose the chiller cabinet has been a constant subject for discussion – especially now LED lighting will enhance the look of products as well as lower the electricity bill.

The reaction of the engineering department belies the frustration that their retail merchandising brethren just won’t hear of it – for them it’s all about

traffic, footfall and sales per square metre of cabinet.

The main reason why the engineers roll their eyes is that they know I’m going to say again: “why can’t you just do the right thing?”

The supermarkets are ambitious in their pursuit of natural refrigerants; they have made huge strides in their reduction of waste and they are doing lots about reducing electricity demand. But they won’t put the doors on. Or rather they will put some doors on, but in their green flagship stores, where the powers-that-be have factored in potential losses in custom.

The engineers are very open about the dilemma. You may well have heard refrigeration managers such as Colin Coe at our Retail Question Time or at the recent IOR doors on fridges debate (which came out in favour of them, incidentally).

His view is that aside from some engineering considerations, such as aisle width and maintenance, it is largely a case of “we will do it, if the likes of Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s do it too”.

The Co-operative Group is clear that its trials are working,with doors on chiller cabinets in 298 food stores yielding an average energy saving of 20 per cent.

The retailer’s Alex Pitman calculates that putting doors on fridges across all the UK supermarkets’ estates could save around 1 per cent of the country’s total electricity bill.

Most people believe it needs a top-down approach to make the supermarkets take action together, to put the pressure on the bosses to act – if not a regulation, then some sort of code of practice.

Readers, I think I have seen just such an opportunity.

 As you will see on p6, British Retail Consortium has published its goal to reduce emissions from retail buildings by 50 per cent by 2020. In the same report the BRC report highlighted that the Consortium was “looking forward to working with the Retail Efficiency taskforce… on the identification of barriers to further energy efficiency action…” I may be getting over-excited but that could be the way to get the ball rolling.

As one retail refrigeration manager at last week’s Euroshop exhibition said: “Most other energy-saving measures that haven’t been implemented already are only going to give you 3 or 4 per cent now. In that context, doors on fridges and all-LED lighting in store would seem to be no-brainers now.”

One more thing. That taskforce was originally promised to the refrigeration industry last year, but nothing happened. Isn’t it time to get lobbying?

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