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Spotlight On Changing Regulations

BY Mark Dunson

In 2016, retail chains will continue to face increasing competition and high consumer expectations. Changing regulations will also impact retail businesses. We see the regulatory issues below as the most critical for the retail industry this year and beyond.

Refrigerant and energy efficiency standards

The EPA is working diligently with industry leaders to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, move to climate-friendly refrigerants and employ advanced refrigeration technologies. Retailers will be adopting a new class of approved refrigerants, which generally are not “drop-in” substitutes for retrofitting. Equipment must be specifically designed, evaluated and tested to comply. Retailers and their suppliers will need to plan and collaborate carefully before any retrofit in order to fulfill all guidelines.

New Department of Energy efficiency standards for refrigeration systems will also impact retailers in the coming year and beyond. Conventional refrigeration systems typically enable the control of refrigerated cases through the electrical panel and/or refrigeration room (rack house).

Operators commonly use this centralized method to perform limited controls of their refrigeration rack as a whole. But with recent advances in case control and electronic expansion valve technology, retailers can implement these controls at the case level and achieve substantial improvements in performance, energy efficiency and system flexibility.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

For retailers offering fresh foods, FSMA will have an impact on food integrity and safety, as well as in reducing food waste. As retailers focus more on “farm to table” freshness, the result will be an increased importance on collecting and utilizing data related to the safety and integrity of foods. This will apply to more than just monitoring food temperature during shipping.

Retailers will need to engage with their suppliers and partners more to ensure data integrity throughout the chain of custody for food — and ultimately, to continue earning customer trust in their story.

While the direct and immediate impact of FSMA on retailers is not yet clear, several recent reports show that the FDA (which is responsible for enforcement) is embracing it as a major food safety improvement. It’s also highly likely that leading retailers will find a way to utilize the new information to validate their “fresh foods” authenticity, hoping to gain competitive advantage.

Changing workforce rules

Finally, retailers will continue to deal with employment and workforce regulation changes. Whether the issue is higher labor costs for wages and benefits or retaining aging, experienced associates with few available skilled replacements, it’s likely that retailers will rely on additional technology and automation for solutions. New technologies will be deployed to simplify repetitive tasks, reduce required labor content in store and minimize the need for high-training levels. In short, retailers will use their valuable employees to improve customer service, satisfaction and loyalty.

Mark Dunson is president of Emerson Climate Technologies Retail Solutions, which specializes in developing energy-saving techniques and devices for chain supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants.

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