Costs are biting for businesses and everyone is looking to tighten their belts. So we’ve pulled together some top tips to help businesses look at ways to lower costs.

Energy

This will be a big one for aquatics retailers. First stop is to look at what your energy supplier can do for you of course, although deals are hard to find at the moment. However, small changes within your business might also help get energy use down. We’ve gathered some ideas from around the industry for ideas to look at.

There’s also some great advice here from OFGEM on things to look at if you are struggling to meet your energy bills.

Reduce the heat

Reducing heaters even by 1 degree will not harm fish but could make a difference to energy bills. Many retailers run tropical systems at 25-26 degrees while a lot of popular species will be happy at lower degrees. Reef tanks can be run at 24 degrees.

Organise livestock into systems of cooler-tolerant species and fish that need it a bit warmer so that you can heat tanks differently and you’re not warming more water than necessary.

Plug-in energy meters

These could help you work out energy use in your business and they are also an excellent idea to give to customers thinking of giving up their tanks. Why not encourage them to get a plug in meter first to see just how much electricity they’re using – it might not be as much as they think!

Keep on top of stock

Reduce slow moving stock with the objective of removing or not re-ordering. This will reduce the amount of money held in stock, release cash to help finance the higher cost of other stock and free up shelf space for better sellers. So avoid getting in fish or goods just because they’re interesting and reduce the price on things that have been sat there too long.

You could also focus more on stocking bread and butter fish and dry goods but let customers know that you can order in more specialist items/fish if they’re interested.

Look at your pumps

Efficient filter/return pumps and properly rated pipework (this is often overlooked) are probably the fastest way to save.

  • Running the wrong bore of pipe can significantly reduce efficiency (over 30%) by increasing back pressure on pump.
  • Do not use taps to control flow, where possible set the flow on the pump controller.
  • Cooling costs more than heating! Poorly running or inefficient pumps create heat. Every 1 watt of in system heat requires 3 watts of cooling power to remove.
  • Cut down lighting and circulation pumps where possible.

It may be worth investigating installing more up-to-date pump systems instore which are more efficient and use less electricity. You might find the return on investment is quicker than you think with today’s increased energy prices.

Lighting in store

Make the switch to LED lighting wherever you can rather than compact fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. Again, it’s a long-term investment for stores but lighting systems for tanks that give greater controllability may also be worth investigating now.

Adjusting photoperiod on aquariums is worth looking at. Display tanks with fish could have reduced lighting time, and turn off lights on dry displays entirely – if a customer is interested you can always manually turn the lights on!

Longer term investment

Can you invest in new heating options eg ground or air source heat pump options? This is a big commitment for businesses but over the longer term it might be worth investigating – particularly if there are grants available to help with the cost. Your local council might be able to help with further information on grants or check out information here.

Tips to save on other business costs

  • Have you checked to see if your small business can get business rate relief? Even if you’re over the threshold there are other types of business rates relief it might be worth investigating. Check here.
  • If your business took out bounce back loans during 2020/2021 then check out the Government’s ‘pay as you grow’ scheme which offers measures such as greater flexibility over pay back periods and the ability to expand the term. Check here.
  • There is always support available from the Government Business Support Helplines and don’t forget that local Growth Hubs in your area also offer a wide range of training and support to tap into as well. Find your local Growth Hub here.
  • This may only apply to a limited number of businesses within our industry due to the essential status during the COVID-19 pandemic but if you had to shut your premises due to the lockdowns then check out the Protect Rent Debt campaign for help to write off rent debt. There is a time limit on this. Check the campaign out now.
  • Talk to the taxman if you think you’re going to have problems paying your tax bill in one go – they are more than happy to set up payment plans. Find more here.
  • Don’t forget OATA members has access to a free legal helpline if you need some quick advice on issues in your business. Call our office on 01373 301353 to find out more.

Other tips to think about

We’ve also seen some great tips from BIRA which might prove useful too.

Identify Known Value Items

A KVI is often a popular sales line and the price is ‘known’ by the customer eg a pint of milk or a loaf of bread in a supermarket. They’re generally items bought on a regular basis and often in isolation so the customer becomes used to the price. It is the cost of KVIs that often determine the perception of how expensive a shop might be in the eyes of the shopper. The strategy for KVIs should be to minimise the price increase on these products and spread any increases across the wider product range. Protecting the KVIs from significant increases affects the perceived value for money that you offer your customers. However, it is not always easy to identify the KVI in every retail outlet.

Requotes

Get a new quote for business insurance rather than just staying with the same provider. You can get a free audit review with our partner agency for OATA members.

Offer credit options

Look for alternative payment schemes such as Buy Now Pay Later for high value purchases. Last year 1 in 3 Adults in the UK used a BNPL scheme to buy goods.

Review opening times

Review opening hours in line with your sales trends – this may help save energy and labour costs. You may need to revise working hours to reflect the changing consumer store visits. You will need to take legal advice when changing staffing contracts and don’t forget OATA members have access to a free legal helpline.

Tips to share with customers

We’ve got some ideas to share with customers too. Feel free to share these on your website, in customer mailings and on your social media accounts if you find them useful.

  • Worried about the cost of running your tank? Before you give it up try out a plug-in energy meter – you might be how little it costs to run your tank.
  • Research typical temperatures of your fish in the wild and slowly move towards that – you might find it’s lower than you think. Reef tanks can be run at 24 degrees.
  • Look at reducing the time you have your lights on – your fish might prefer it too!
  • Consider switching to more energy efficient LED lighting or pumps.
  • Lag the sides and back of your tank with insulation to reduce heat loss.
  • Share a fishy passion with friends? Why not club together to bulk buy items like food?
  • Don’t keep tropical tanks in cold rooms e.g. conservatories in winter.
  • Reducing tank size is an option.
  • Consider changing some of your procedures to manual, rather than automatic, which might help reduce energy costs.