Varta’s 2010 product launch

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At its annual trade event, Varta’s demonstrated that ‘green’ products – rechargeable batteries and chargers – present a win-win opportunity for both retailers and their customers. Anna Ryland reports.

Varta, the German battery manufacturer, which is the number two player in the European market, unveiling its product line-up for 2010, called for retailers to educate their customers about the benefits of rechargeable batteries.

The UK battery market, worth £420 million, is dominated by alkaline batteries which account for 80% of the sales. Zinc batteries constitute only 4% of the market. Sales volume and value of these traditional markets are declining. Meanwhile rechargeable batteries are the only market segment (beside the small market of specialist batteries) which shows growth – sales volume of rechargeables grew by 56% over the last four years. They account for 2.4% of market volume and 10% of value.

The growth of the rechargeable batteries segment, worth £40 million, has been stimulated by the recession, with a mixture of economic and environmental factors influencing purchasing decisions. Yet, at present only 10% of adults buy rechargeable batteries, and Varta’s consumer research survey shows that their cost effectiveness appeals mostly to older people, families with children and adults from C2DE group. Rechargeable batteries are used in clocks, digital cameras and radios, smoke alarms and computer equipment. They are mostly purchased by female consumers in supermarkets, although men tend to buy batteries in the first place they see them displayed.

Maximizing retail opportunities

The rechargeable battery market faces a number of challenges. The consumers perceive rechargeable batteries as expensive, difficult to maintain, taking up to 24 hours to recharge and losing charge quickly if not used. Therefore, “effective communication by both manufacturers and retailers is the number one factor in educating the market about rechargeable batteries”, said Paula Brinson Pyke, Varta’s trade marketing manager.

Customers should be informed that the price of rechargeable products is a reflection of their value for money and longevity. For example, over their lifetime, four AA batteries can save the consumer approximately £2,000 – in comparison to alkaline cells.

Moreover, batteries are mostly purchased on impulse. According to the industry’s survey, 93% of consumers don’t have batteries on their shopping lists. Therefore well structured displays and their location on the shop floor are key for stimulating sales of this product. Battery manufacturers provide retailers with imaginative PoS materials but they should be positioned not only by the till but also in the proximity of the products using them, eg consuemer electronics gagets, toys etc. Paula Brinston Pyke also stressed that since the rechargeable battery packs are high value items they should be displayed at the top of the PoS fixture – not at the bottom of them – to attract consumer interest and retail margins.

Varta offers a complete range of rechargeable products including AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries ready to use straight from the pack, rapid chargers and also a range of emergency power units which can be charged either from the mains or via the USB on computers and used to power a range of gadgets such as mobile phones, sat navs and MP3 players.

Varta’s products have a distinctive three-tier segmentation. The Easy Energy range of batteries and chargers (under £20) is aimed at the mass market, for products they use every day at home and work. The Power Play range is focused on people with active lifestyles and includes fast charging and mobile power solutions. Meanwhile the Professional range includes the most exclusive products (retailing at between £35 and £50) designed for professionals and families on the move. It includes a charger for powering multiple devices which will be available from September.

Benefits of rechargeable batteries

1. Economy: after the third use the consumer starts saving money

2. Ease of use: always having the product available

3. Saving the environment

Selling batteries – seasonal opportunities

• Easter

• Father’s day and similar anniversaries

• Holiday season

• Christmas

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