HVAC equipment: Protecting your investment
Well-maintained HVAC systems deliver optimum comfort, savings and energy efficiency, along with an extended effective life.
Chain Store Age spoke with Frank Bacchetta, CEO of Total Comfort Group, about what retailers need to know about this critical investment.
What’s the best way for a retailer to protect its HVAC investment?
A proper preventive maintenance program that varies by region is key to prolonging the life cycle of the equipment. The one-size-fits-all approach is no longer viable with the change in weather patterns and equipment standards. Frequency of coil cleanings, filter changes and visits will vary based on location.
What should retailers know about HVAC installation?
Installation is just as important — or more important — than the selection of the equipment. There are a lot of factors at play when installing equipment. And if not installed properly, it will not work to design specifications. As a factory authorized agent, we partner with York National Accounts to provide Factory Authorized Startup (FAS) for clients across the country.
To verify operations, we check the following (but not limited to): economizer setup, economizer operations, air flow, refrigeration cycle operations, gas pressures and proper installation as per submittal. Proper installation as per manufacture design is paramount along with partnering with the correct vendor.
Are there any new HVAC regulations, etc., that retailers need to be aware of?
The Department of Energy has begun to implement new energy standards this year. phase 1 focuses on energy-efficiency increases in all air-conditioning RTUs by 10% as of Jan. 1.
Phase 2, slated for 2023, will raise the increases up to 30% and will include warm-air furnaces, as well.
Prices will rise and fluctuate as manufacturers continue to revamp and create new product lines to meet the change in code and keep up with consumer demand.
Tell us about Total Comfort Group and the services it provides.
Total Comfort Group is a regional self-performing contractor with a national reach. We provide electrical, plumbing, HVAC and refrigeration services nationwide to our clients. As a multitrade self-performing contractor, we have the ability to provide services on a scaled approach that allows us to handle any request start to finish.
Our benefit is that we can manage any MEP request without having multiple contractors involved. This allows for steamlined communications and quicker resolutions to emergency requests.
How is the company positioned in the marketplace?
Total Comfort serves commercial multisite retailers, restaurants, banks and healthcare facilities nationwide.
As a self-performing contractor, it gives us a unique position in the market. As we continue to manage and solve requests across multiple designs and conditions, our team is building standards to be shared across all clients.
We leverage technology for virtual on-site meetings, photo documentation and direct access to our technicians so nothing gets lost in translation. As we self-perform the majority of our work, it allows for more consistency and better agility to solve requests in a timely and cost-effective manner.
How do you provide support?
Customer support and the flow of information is a huge part of the service we provide. As facility departments are constantly being asked to do more with less, we have had to implement a tiered support system. All of our requests and communications run through our managed services center (MSC). As requests are made and verified, they are then directed to the appropriate team for processing with the direct oversight of an account manager.
As the process progresses, we are keeping track of when it was last touched, resolution time and ensuring we are meeting or exceeding the customer’s SLA. Our account managers are an extension of our clients and are available 24/7, as most emergencies happen after or before hours.
How has technology impacted the HVAC industry and your business?
We are in an exciting time of transformation. With efficiencies and standards changing, the industry has come a long way. Today, you can connect to a unit through Wi-Fi with service tools and gather diagnostics, check operations and set parameters that were otherwise analog a short time ago.
Technology has transformed the way you think as a technician and put critical information at your fingertips to allow for better diagnostics.
As a company, we leverage these tools for oversight and technical review. We utilize trending, screen shots of parameters and photos (before/after) of repairs. All of these benefits are then passed on to our clients to provide complete transparency for repairs and installations.
It’s an exciting time to be in retail — really. The “retail apocalypse” narrative that dominated the headlines for far too long made it seem as if the end was near for the retail industry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, retail is tough. (But it’s never been very easy.) But many retailers — like the industry itself — are transforming and evolving. They are getting more personal, more local, more connected and more experiential.
At the same time, start-ups are bringing a new level of energy into the industry. Many of these retailers are a bit more sophisticated than the newbies of the past, having already honed their concepts online or in pop-ups.
Here are four of my faves:
Bulletin: Founded in 2014 as a shopable digital magazine for online-only brands, Bulletin now has three stores in New York City and an e-commerce site devoted to emerging brands led by women.
The venture-backed company operates with a membership-based model: Each brand pays a monthly fee to rent out space to sell their product. Bulletin is all about female empowerment, with regular events around progressive issues.
Parachute: The fast-growing home décor upstart, founded online in 2014, brings luxury linens to the masses. Parachute has amassed a devoted following for its premium quality, responsibly manufactured and affordable bedding and bath products.
The company has three stores (in Venice Beach, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and New York City), with two new ones set to open in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The brand is accelerating its expansion on the heels of a recent influx of new financing.
Outdoor Voices: The digitally-native brand known for its color-blocked activewear has its sights set on brick-and-mortar growth. Outdoor Voices has seven carefully-crafted stores and no two look the same — the design of each references its locale. Five additional outposts are planned by year-end. Looking further ahead, it envisions a national footprint.
The retailer’s reputation has swelled thanks to its Instagram savvy and a slew of hip celebrity brand ambassadors. The brand is expanding its website with categories targeted at specific types of exercise activities. (Retail vet Mickey Drexler is company chairman.)
Harper Wilde: This online bra start-up has only been around for one year but it’s already attracting attention — and a following — for its no-fuss, no-nonsense approach to bra shopping. It offers three basic styles in a variety of shades. And taking a page out of Warby Parker’s playbook, Harper Wilde offers free home try-on.
As for the brand’s name, it’s a blend of Harper Lee and Laura Ingalls Wilder, women who represent values at the core of Harper Wilde: education and empowerment.
Interesting new concepts are by no means exclusive to start-ups. Nike’s new Nike Live format uses technology to provide a localized shopping experience. The first one, Nike by Melrose, just opened in Los Angeles. It features city-specific products, with the inventory determined by Nike’s digital commerce data.
The retailer analyzes buying patterns, app usage and engagement of the local members of its NikePlus loyalty program to stock shelves, with a goal of giving the members the product they want, when they want it. And if that’s not in sync with today’s demanding customers, nothing is.
Casper to go big in brick-and-mortar with 200 stores
The online brand credited with starting the disruption of mattress retailing is planting its flag in the physical space.
Casper plans to open 200 stores during the next three years, according to CNBC, which cited a report by the Wall Street Journal. The news comes amid reports that the nation’s largest mattress retailer, Mattress Firm, which operates some 3,400 stores, is mulling filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and as other online upstarts have jumped into the market.
Casper, which upended the industry with its mattress-in-a-box product and generous return policy, opened some 15 long-term pop-ups across the United States last year. In February, the brand opened its first permanent location, in downtown Manhattan, followed by a second location, in May, at Toronto’s CF Sherway Gardens mall. Casper plans to open additional locations throughout Canada.
Philip Krim, CEO of Casper, told the Journal that the new stores will help the brand move from being primarily known for its mattresses-in-a-box to a place to buy all types of sleep products, according the Journal report. The company’s product line-up has expanded to include sheets, duvets, pillows and other items.
“Customers aren’t always in the market for a mattress, but everyone cares about how they sleep,” Krim said in the report.