Investment drives forecourts in challenging market

JET forecourt

The ACS 2023 Forecourt Report has shown how forecourts have continued to invest heavily despite massive flux in the fuel and vehicle marketplace.

By Antony Begley

The freshly published 2023 Forecourt Report from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has recognised how, despite the current flux in the fuel and vehicle marketplace, forecourt retailers are continuing to invest heavily in a range of services and tech solutions to benefit their customers.

The report highlights the challenges and future opportunities for forecourt convenience retailers in a world of uncertainty.

Among the most popular investments identified were free-to-use ATMs (39% of stores), click-and-collect services (31% of stores) and standalone parcel collection points (26% of stores).

The report also shows the commitment that forecourt retailers are making to improve the technology in their stores with almost a third of those who are investing doing so in their till systems and EPoS platforms (31%), and 30% of those investing doing so through improving, expanding and replacing refrigeration units in store.

ACS Chief Executive James Lowman said: “The best forecourt retailers often outperform their convenience counterparts on the impressive range of services and technology they incorporate into their offer for customers. This has however been a challenging year for forecourts, with business rates costs and energy bills having an impact on overall investment.

“Forecourt retailers will undoubtedly have a role to play in an EV future, but we are not seeing a rush for all stores to put in charging points, as for many the value that a parking space currently provides for a customer who is coming in to shop outstrips the potential value of a charging point on the site. Around 8% of the forecourt sector now offers EV charging, and we expect steady growth in the future as forecourts establish themselves as one of several charging options for consumers.”

ACS 2023 Forecourt Report – key findings
  • The UK forecourt sector creates over 89,000 jobs, with one in four colleagues (25%) being in the business for more than 10 years.
  • Value of sales in the forecourt sector (excluding fuel) is £4.9bn.
  • 78% of retailers are active in their communities.
  • 21% of independent forecourt retailers take no days off.
  • Independent forecourts have invested an average of around £11,700 in improving their stores in the last year.
  • Over 8,600 public charging points have been added to the UK network in the last 12 months.

JET fuelled

Meanwhile, fuel brand JET has signed up and ‘reimaged’ a new site in the Scottish Borders. Hillside Service Station, located on the A7 road at Selkirk, was formerly a Shell garage and is a key signing for JET.

Now fully reimaged by JET, Hillside includes a Premier-branded forecourt shop and offers a new range of fuels including JET ULTRA Premium Unleaded and JET ULTRA Premium Diesel alongside unleaded and diesel fuels.

“We’re thrilled to welcome this new site to the growing list of JET service stations across the UK and in key focus areas of growth,” says Graham Clout, Retail Sales Manager, Phillips 66. “Scotland is an important location for us as we continue to extend and grow our brand awareness in the country. We look forward to building the relationship and driving success.”

Also helping to drive brand awareness is the latest iteration of JET’s Keep On Moving campaign which includes national TV, on-site and social media activities.

As part of the Keep On Moving campaign, JET is also injecting a little fun into forecourts with the launch of ‘Wheel Spins,’ an interactive on-site activation for customers at partner service stations across the UK.

The activation follows a gameshow-style host (complete with on-brand yellow velvet jacket) at key JET locations inviting drivers to ‘spin the wheel’ to win a selection of driving-related prizes. These range from a ‘high five and a fiver’ to fluffy dashboard dice and £250-worth of hotel vouchers.

The campaign recently visited Edinburgh and Selkirk, helping to target newer audiences and a younger demographic.

“This activation is all about the fun and joy of driving,” says Áine Corkery, Manager, Brand, UK Marketing Phillips 66. “We wanted to celebrate our loyal customers by rewarding them with prizes while also targeting new audiences by taking the series to social media. It perfectly encapsulates the Keep on Moving spirit and we’re thrilled to share it with the world.”

Mobile payments

EPoS software system provider Henderson Technology, in partnership with Blu Dot Technologies, has recently launched a new market-leading mobile pay-at-pump app called Fuel Pay.

On arrival at the pump, motorists can use the Fuel Pay app to select the pump, fuel grade and the amount to refuel. The pump is authorised in-store and then refuelling can begin. Payment automatically uses the card assigned during initial registration. On completion the motorist simply drives away, with their VAT receipt e-mailed automatically.

Forecourt operators can increase profitability by enabling this new digital payment which offers a driver-friendly payment method and a way to generate fresh footfall thanks to the digital ‘station finder’.

Fuel Pay is integrated with Azpiral Staff Loyalty and will be further integrated with Azpiral Customer Loyalty, helping to generate and grow loyalty.

Darren Nickels, Henderson’s Retail Technology Operations Director, says: “Often, Outdoor Payment Terminal (OPT) solutions can be expensive and require the investment of new pumps. This is a cost-effective solution for customers who simply want to purchase fuel without having to enter the store and can be run in conjunction with existing OPT.

“Fuel Pay offers forecourt retailers a number of benefits – it is simple and secure to use, it allows retailers to stay ahead of their competition, and the experience is quick and convenient for motorists.”

Fuel Pay is available as a standalone app or can be added to existing Appetite! app integrations. Appetite! is a pre-order-pre-pay delivery and collection app for grocery and food-to-go, including drive-thru collection and in-store kiosks. It is fully integrated to EDGEPoS, ensuring live stock reporting on both the app and EDGEPoS back office.

Darren Nickels concludes: “The pandemic showed us how customers can shop in different ways, and this trend has continued. Our Appetite! app already offers grocery click & collect and delivery options, but we saw there was a demand for faster and frictionless fuel transactions.

“Fuel Pay is the most advanced mobile re-fuelling app on the market today. We are extremely proud to offer this innovative product to our EDGEPoS fuel retailers.”

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This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.