Batteries and Headphones – Make the most of accessories

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Every good retailer knows only too well that add-on sales are an invaluable revenue stream and that it’s well worth stocking a comprehensive range of accessories.
This feature looks at two particularly lucrative areas – batteries and headphones.
Often bought as an impulse purchase, batteries are one of the most common money-spinners in terms of accessories, simply because almost everyone needs them at some time or another.
Data specialists GfK explain: “In June, the total batteries market saw a 1% increase in value sales, and a 3.2% increase in volume sales (in cells). As per usual, AA and AAA are the main cell sizes driving the market”.
The number of cells in a pack has also been on the increase, says GfK, with packs of eight now accounting for 18% of the total market.
GfK also explains that the healthy growth in the battery sector can be attributed to the ongoing popularity of digital devices.
“With digital cameras enjoying some steady growth in recent months, helped by the affordability of upper-end compact digital cameras, a need for batteries still remains despite the rise of MP3 and MP4 players that have a built-in Lithium-Ion cell. Steady sales of replacement remote controls also necessitate a need for AA and AAA cells in the home.”
Rechargeable batteries have also seen significant growth in both value (17%) and volume (26%), says GfK.
Batteries Directive
Perhaps the biggest impact on the battery sector this year is the implementation of the EU Batteries Directive which came into effect at the end of September 2008. The Directive seeks to improve the environmental performance of batteries through several initiatives, including collection schemes, and clear labelling for recyclable and non-recyclable batteries (see www.defra.gov.uk for more information).
Mike Doole, managing director at Uniross, explains how the Directive will affect the industry: “The implementation of the EU Battery Directive will drive the rechargeable agenda into the mainstream media. Battery recycling is seen as difficult because few facilities are available and no doorstep collection currently exists, which is why we only recycle around 3% of our batteries in the UK.
“Now the process is a necessity, the challenge for rechargeable battery manufacturers is to make consumers aware that rechargeable batteries remove the burden of reactive recycling and instead emphasise recharging.
“Uniross will be promoting rechargeable batteries and rechargeable portable power as the real solution. If everybody used rechargeable batteries, an EU Directive on recycling would not be required and consumers and the environment would be better off too”.
Varta has been using its knowledge to educate its customers and retailers to raise awareness of the directive and their obligations.
The UK will use a multiple producer compliance scheme to meet the Directive’s requirements. However, Boke Boddin, marketing manager at Energizer, makes a good point commenting: “Energizer understands the Government’s decision to drive competition through multiple schemes, however urges caution on the number of schemes participating, on the basis that having too many brings with it the high burden of administrative control”.
What’s clear is that sales of rechargeable batteries are set to increase significantly as a result of the Directive. As Varta’s divisional vice-president, Vince Artimage, puts it: “Primary round cell (alkaline) batteries have begun to reach their limits in terms of performance and capacity. This fact, coupled with the introduction of the Directive offers consumers and retailers alike the opportunity to explore more environmentally sound methods of portable power”.
Latest products
Varta will be launching several rechargeable products this year, including a 15-miniute fast charger and a travel charger.
Products in Uniross’s MultiUsage range are fully charged straight out of the pack and the maker has also recently introduced the Nomad charger which enables users to carry a portable power hub wherever they go. The manufacturer’s Solar charger can be used to charge batteries on a sunny day, while the Hymini wind charger can be clipped to a bicycle to charge batteries while cycling. Uniross will also be launching a range of portable rechargeable power pack products which remove the need to carry mains cables and adaptors around.
Panasonic Batteries has also recently launched a portable energy pack – Pocket Energy – for use with almost any USB device. The maker also offers its INFINIUM rechargeable range.
Along with it successful Ultimate Lithium batteries, Energizer’s collection also includes a rechargeable battery range along with several chargers, including a portable model.
Philips has also launched its Power4Life range of compact back-up power devices and universal chargers.
Despite all the rechargeable technology flooding into the market, there is still a place for alkaline cells. Panasonic Batteries’ marketing manager, Tim Clark, comments: According to the July 2008 Mintel Battery report, three key factors influence purchasing behaviour: that it fits and works with their device, the brand name and a cheap price.
“With the current economic downturn, we see the cheap price becoming an increasingly important factor in the consumer’s purchasing motivation and for that reason it makes more sense than ever for retailers to stock an entry-level alkaline battery, from a trusted brand”.
Headphones
Bolstered by the growth in portable technology, the headphone market has also had a healthy year, with an 18% growth in both volume and value (June 2008, GfK). A GfK spokesperson summed up the sector, commenting: “The choice of headphones available at cheaper price points continues to grow, with 38% of in-ear headphones being sold in the £4.99 or less price segment. However, despite this strong base of lower-priced product, the £15-19.99 price segment also saw a 2.9% growth year-on-year.
“In traditional wired headphones, when comparing June 2008 with June 2007, 46% of the headphones sold were sold at a price of £9.99 or less.
“Headphones sales are also up on the Internet, moving from 4.5% to 6.6% June ’08 vs. June ’07.  The GfK data shows an average price of £20 on the Internet, versus £13 for traditional sales (average price for total headphones), which suggests that more top end headphones are being sought out online”.
Panasonic firmly believes that noise cancelling is a very important selling point for this sector. Richard Phillips, product manager for headphones at Panasonic, comments: “We believe that one of the main influences in this market has been the growth of noise cancelling technology. There has been significant growth in this type of headphones, and Panasonic’s RP-HC500 headphones have 92% noise cancelling technology”.
Among its vast range of headphones, Panasonic also offers the RP-HJE240 ear canal model, for a comfortable fit with high-quality sound.
Philips is also keen to focus on the noise cancelling sector, having recently launched three models, including the SHE9850 in-ear version and is also placing emphasis on wireless technology
Stephen Carter, Philips’ consumer marketing manager for headphones, comments: “Wireless headphones have been popular in the home but are now starting to be an important part of the portable market, in part response to the upgrade path for Bluetooth-enabled multimedia phones”.
Sennheiser’s sales manager for consumer and MI retail, David Smith, predicts that we’ll see a lot more portable wireless products in the near future. Sennheiser’s latest innovation is the MXW1, a unique model which offers uncompressed digital wireless connection and high-fidelity stereo sound.
Going back to the wireless theme, APT (Audio Processing Technology) is keen to re-introduce high-fidelity music to personal players, which has been lost thanks to lo-fi compressed music files. It hopes to achieve this with a processing technology called apt-X, which is used to upgrade sound quality on Bluetooth A2DP headphones.
The latest Bluetooth A2DP wireless headphones featuring apt-X will be launched around Christmas 2008.
As with battery manufacturers, most headphone makers offer some form of PoS material for retailers.
Making room for accessories in your store and training your staff on the latest innovations and the implications of the Battery Directives will certainly add some healthy profit to your business, so make sure it’s a sector that’s not overlooked.

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