A: Sunda Patel, a retailer, says…

“I have three stores and a variety of different chillers in each one. I only go for branded chillers for soft drinks, particularly Coke and Pepsi fridges.

There are contingencies though: Pepsi only lets you stock one third of another brand and Coke doesn't let you stock any other drink brands in their fridges, although it is becoming more flexible.

I would like a non-branded soft drink chiller but you get deals with the branded ones that make sense. For example Irn Bru makes you buy the fridge, but they give you the value of the fridge in stock at the same time.

Pepsi and Coke give you the fridge for free. And considering I don't think the customer cares what the fridge looks like, it makes sense to go for these deals.

Alcohol is different though. I have a Stella branded fridge but there's not much room for stock. Around 90% of sales of beer come from the fridge, so you need to have lots of room, so I have a non-branded fridge too and a built in chiller that has lots of room.

Really it all depends on what you want to put in the fridge. You get good deals with some beer brands and soft drink brands, so it makes sense to use them. But with a non-branded fridge you can put what you like in it and that helps with beer and wine.”

A: Charlotte Morey, trading manager for Musgrave Budgens Londis, says…

“Branded chillers are provided free by manufacturers and they offer independent retailers a quick and simple solution to upgrading their soft drinks offer. Branded chillers can instantly make you look more professional.

However, they generally come with strict terms which often involve over-facing of the manufacturer's brands by more than their market share warrants. This doesn't necessarily offer the best return on your shelf space and you might want to add in other products to offer the best possible range.

In partnership with a supplier we offer Budgens and Londis independents two chiller options. If they undertake a major refit programme, the package includes an open deck remote chiller which links to the main electrical system and offers extra capacity for a wider range.

Alternatively, we can supply a free on-loan integral chiller, which has less capacity. In both cases, retailers are required to merchandise to our planograms but they only have to take 30% of the supplier brands. This is better matched to the market, it's fairer and you can offer a more balanced range.

There are three key factors to take into account - space, display and range. Sixty percent of lost sales are due to out of stock, so it's all about availability. You need to keep a core range, it needs to be chilled and you have to devote the right amount of space to each sector of the market.

You also need to get the adjacents right and for the best returns we recommend locating the soft drinks chiller alongside sandwiches, bagged snacks and confectionery. Within c-stores, 72% of soft drinks are sold after noon, so it's clear that the lunchtime trade is crucial.”

A: John Ibottson - MD of Retail Vision, says…

“I don't think it makes much difference to your sales whether the chiller is branded or not. The category is highly branded but is the highlighting of one brand on the chiller likely to increase your total chiller sales?

Chilled drinks are a classic impulse category. The customer sees the chiller and if he/she has the immediate desire for a drink will then go through the decision hierarchy of selecting one. Choosing what sub category, brand, size/pack probably in that order.

The choice grows every year. Does one brand message help the customer or increase total category sales? It may influence the decision away from another brand but I don't think it will do anything for your total sales.

Trying to influence the decision towards Coke, say, away from Pepsi is increasingly less relevant when customers want more bottled waters, pure juice, functional drinks, health drinks, energy drinks and zero sugar.

A branded chiller may raise customer awareness of the category in the store but this is minor compared with the brand message on the product.
If you think about what could increase your chilled drink sales and what your customer wants then branding the chiller comes a long way behind location, range and in stock position.

It's a lot more important that the chiller is positioned at the front of your store in the impulse area, that you stock a range that covers all the main growing impulse sub categories and you're in stock especially on hot days.”