Monitoring consumption by volume not value was key to reducing energy costs for Brewers

Brewers is the largest independent supplier of decorating materials in the country. It is a family business with a history of over 100 years and has 142 branches covering the South of England and the Midlands.


Brewers is the largest independent supplier of decorating materials in the country. It is a family business with a history of over 100 years and has 142 branches covering the South of England and the Midlands.

Nick Brewer, Premises Director of Brewers is one of the fourth generation of his family to run the business. Keeping a close eye on costs is a critical part of how the business has remained profitable over the decades. One area that was causing Nick concern was Brewers’ energy costs. The company seemed to be in a cycle, whereby one year energy costs seemed to soar and the next they would be in credit.

Nick explains, “There was so much fluctuation year on year due to estimated readings being relied on by suppliers that we felt we had no grip on our energy bills. The bills were confusing to understand and I was keen for the business to take ownership and monitor consumption by volume not value. We also had a building stock that varied in age and energy efficiency which brought its own challenges.

“Ownership was an important factor,” explains Nick. “We wanted to take back control of our energy use. Not just from the head office but to introduce a culture whereby each branch takes responsibility and has accountability for its use of gas and electricity. Being ‘green’ is very important to us and we are constantly looking to improve the way we do things.

“The business was also keen to look at a way of monitoring energy usage across all 142 outlets. Principally we use gas for our space heating, and electricity for lighting and all our business machinery, including POS equipment, paint tinting and materials handling. I wanted to move towards greater energy insight from our head office and then to feed that information to the branches to enable changes to be made on the ground. It would also allow me and our employees to see the impact of any green changes made and hopefully, over time, we would have a greater understanding of the effectiveness of our energy measures and cost savings.

“We shortlisted three energy management companies that offered a metering and data service, choosing IMServ as our preferred supplier. Aside from offering the most cost effective solution, IMServ’s account management team are great to deal with. Retail is very much a people industry and we feel IMServ understands Brewers and completely embraces the way we like to do things. There is a lot of empathy and they have been spot on with helping us achieving our energy goals.”

Identifying the problems

Over the last two years Brewers has introduced IMServ’s Automated Meter Readers, AMR into 142 of its branches to enable it to monitor both gas and electric usage and investigate energy waste. It is also using IMServ’s powerful web tool, Energy DataVision (EDV). This allows Brewers to capture and visualise its energy consumption across all outlets.

“The detailed energy reports that EDV outputs monthly have put the control back in our hands,” explains Nick.

“The EDV dashboard shows usage trends, compares sites, forecasts future consumption requirements and highlights any areas in our business that needs to be addressed. Each month I send an energy management report to each store manager.

“This has flagged up some interesting problems! For example, Brewers acquired a new business that had electric radiant heating throughout the building. We discovered that it had no time control so was on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The base load had previously been 10 kW. Once we’d put in a time control, the base load dropped to 1.5kW.

“At another branch where EDV had highlighted particularly high energy use, we discovered the time clock on our heating system was out of sync with the days of the week and the staff had no idea how to programme it. Rather than just accepting anomalies such as these, we were able to address each problem as it arose either replacing equipment with more efficient types or providing training or seeking expertise to deal with a specific issue.

“Armed with this energy intelligence we are now in a position for each branch to have greater involvement in driving down energy usage and costs. In some cases, this has involved specific behavioural changes. For example, a situation that is common to many of our branches is that staff may arrive about an hour before we open the doors to the public at 7.30 a.m. but would turn on all of the lights in the shop. Adjusting this habit will result in important savings when taken across many months and locations.”

Nick is confident that the implementation of IMServ’s services and tools has resulted in significant savings for Brewers. He concluded, “Where equipment has been replaced with more efficient types, we are seeing an immediate reduction in energy consumption. Staff are also being far more proactive and thoughtful about energy use. The EDV reports that come out every month have helped to change attitudes. We have been working with IMServ for over three years out of an initial five year contract. I am confident that Brewers will continue to identify where waste is occurring and make the necessary adjustments to reduce our energy use.”