Saturday, January 28, 2023

UK shoppers rush to buy energy-efficient appliances to keep bills down

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UK shoppers are rushing to buy energy-efficient appliances amid the cost of living squeeze, providing a boost for otherwise struggling retailers as they grapple with high day-to-day costs.

Consumers have been increasingly opting for devices such as air fryers and heat pump tumble dryers as well as loft insulation for their homes to help reduce their energy bills, according to UK retailers.

Sales of air fryers at Argos are up 420 per cent year on year, while Currys is selling 18,000 to 20,000 air fryers a week, compared with 1,000 to 2,000 around the same period last year, according to Ed Connolly, chief commercial officer. Sales of microwaves, also a cheaper alternative to ovens, are up 70 per cent.

Andrew Gossage, managing director of the online domestic appliance retailer and supplier Ultimate Products, said retailers were “begging” for air fryer stock. “The general softness of demand is being compensated for by these products with an energy-saving message,” he added.

Households are paying more for their food and energy bills as a result of surging inflation since global gas prices soared in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

UK inflation hit a 41-year high in October, with food price inflation up 16.5 per cent, the highest for 45 years, according to the Office for National Statistics, albeit inflation slowed to 10.7 per cent in November.

Kingfisher, the owner of DIY stores B&Q and Screwfix, said DIY sales had been boosted by demand for energy-efficient products in its most recent fiscal quarter despite the “challenging” environment.

Chris Bargate, strategy and development director at B&Q, said the DIY chain was “absolutely seeing a trend” in consumers spending more on energy-saving products.

“We’re quite a broad church,” Bargate said. “B&Q sells everything from houseplants to fitted kitchens and everything in between. What you tend to find is consumer behaviour can switch within categories. The fact that we’re well positioned in the energy space, I think, is helping us to be resilient.”

Consumers are also looking to conserve heat across the UK, where the average home is outside of the top three rating bands for energy efficiency, according to the ONS.

Sales of loft insulation at the DIY chain Wickes are up 85 per cent on the same period last year.

“There’s been a real adrenaline punch into the marketplace across the course of November,” said David Wood, chief executive of the DIY chain, despite insulation getting pricier due to the energy-intensive nature of using kilns and furnaces to make the glass-based product.

Customers of AO World, the online domestic appliance retailer, have been “opting up” to purchase items with a high energy rating, including heat pump tumble dryers, over lower-priced, entry-level appliances, according to the company’s large appliance expert, Naeem Adam.

“The nation is becoming more mindful of their energy consumption and so whilst they realise that these models may cost more to purchase, the running costs over time will, in fact, save them money,” Adam said.

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