The rising star of convenience?

Gulf petrol station

The forecourt sector has been revitalised in recent years and looks to be a channel ripe for growth in Scotland with many of the key players looking north of the border for opportunities.

The resurgence of the forecourts channel in Scotland shows no signs of slowing up with many of the major players really getting behind the channel. One such brand is Gulf, with Certas Energy Retail Director Richard Billington proud to confirm that the brand has “ambitious growth plans in Scotland”.

He says: “A series of significant changes to the Gulf brand, its philosophy and dealer proposition are now starting to bear fruit for Gulf retailers across Scotland. We have ambitious growth plans in Scotland, having re-defined our proposition with a much greater focus upon driving up dealer margins and shop revenues. We have achieved significant growth in recent months with dealers of all sizes joining the Gulf family, buoyed by a proposition that is fully in-tune with today’s convenience-led marketplace.”

The changes Billington refers to include the launch of a fresh new eye-catching forecourt image and the roll-out of a fuel loyalty programme. Both have been well received and are now available to every new Gulf dealer in Scotland as the company continues its drive to meet the changing needs of the consumer.

“Our brand-new forecourt loyalty platform, Oomph, utilises the latest technology to drive new revenues to dealers, enabling them to strengthen customer retention,” says Billington. “Sixty-one per cent of retailers cite customer retention as their biggest challenge and Oomph is the only fuel loyalty programme that gives dealers access to customer data and allows them to tailor offers to suit.”

Working in partnership with Azpiral, the market leader in customer engagement solutions for the forecourt and convenience sector, this major new initiative means Gulf dealers can now talk to their customer groups via SMS, email and a dedicated phone app and tailor offers to specific groups to boost in-store profits and strengthen community ties.

Larbert-based Gerry Welsh, Retail Marketing Manager, Certas Energy says: “Gulf dealers now have the tools to delve deep into the shopping basket of a customer and respond accordingly with dedicated calls to action. Our immediate goal was to come to market with a fresh and exciting loyalty scheme that is embraced by dealers and their customers. We plan to make Oomph the most engaging loyalty platform in the industry for consumers and the most cost-effective for dealers.”

A first for the forecourt sector, the Oomph loyalty platform is easy to use and can be integrated with a variety of EPoS systems. Its versatility extends to the point of purchase, where customers are rewarded with points for utilising the app and smart card. Accumulated points are redeemable to support local charities and enter ‘big ticket’ monthly draws to ‘Win a Car’, a ‘5-star family holiday’, or similar. In addition, dealers can reward their customers with member-only offers such as in-store discounts, free coffees and car washes. These can work across a multi-site environment.

“In addition, Gulf Retailers are also benefiting from advantageous relationships with third party suppliers to drive down costs and improve dealer profitability,” continues Billington. “We are using our size and scale to develop enhanced arrangements. To date we have significantly improved our lubricant offering, thanks to a new partnership with CDG, and concluded a best-to-industry arrangement with several of the UK’s leading software and system providers. These include Orbis Tech, whose cloud-based software and integrated systems offer Gulf dealers improved security and access to information in real time. This enables a retailer to make a more informed choice, putting at their fingertips the tools to manage every aspect of their operation including cross-promotional offers, multi-buys and meal deals.”

These product and service solutions help empower Gulf retailers in their day-to-day business operations and allow them, on site or remotely, to fully exploit consumer demand for convenience, driving sales of fuel, coffee, food-to-go, groceries, click-and-collect and any other retail offerings.

“Nothing emphasises that more than our recent agreement with Spar,” says Billington. “Working with the UK’s leading symbol group will ensure that we are able to maximise the convenience potential of every site in the Gulf network. Spar’s commitment to our business extends to its technical expertise and resources that it is willing to place at our disposal. Add to that its wealth of retail experience, consumer insight and market knowledge, along with a vast range of local products, including the widest possible choice of fresh foods and food-to-go options. A huge plus for dealers looking to maximise the potential of their convenience offering.”

With a workforce of 250 based at its offices on the outskirts of Falkirk, Certas Energy’s Scottish portfolio extends to 38 company owned forecourts including 13 Fuel Express 24-hour unmanned sites. Its Gulf dealer network, comprising around 100 forecourts, extends from the Borders to the Highlands, making Gulf one of the largest fuel brands in Scotland.

“We are already a major player in Scotland, and I believe we have the strategic focus, the structure and the retail brand proposition to become the preferred forecourt brand for dealers of all sizes throughout Scotland,” concludes Billington. “Our recent high-profile gain of Ballinluig, Pitlochry after 49 years with BP suggests we are on the right lines. Gulf is driving change in the industry with its innovative approach that puts dealer profitability at the top of the tree as we widen our appeal to a new generation of consumers and motorists.”

jet petrol station

Also targeting Scotland with energy is JET, which launched its new forecourt design earlier this year. This received an extremely positive response from consumers and dealers alike, according to JET. The design incorporates several improvements to create a safe, friendly and welcoming customer environment – and to help JET dealers widen their sites’ appeal and attract forecourt footfall.

These include a fabricated LED-lit logo, a soft-angled canopy with dual-colour LED illumination, an LED-lit four-price pole sign and updated signage.

Oliver Müller, JET’s Retail Business Manager, comments: “The forecourt retailing market is constantly evolving and JET is fully committed to responding to changes in consumer expectations and retail trends.

“Over the past 12 months, we’ve been working on an initiative to refresh our forecourt branding, make our sites more distinctive, support our dealers in their businesses and enhance our forecourt experience in order to reconnect with consumers. We’ve built on the strength of JET’s heritage, expertise and personality to come up with a new forecourt image that we are delighted to say has been welcomed with open arms by our dealers and their customers.

“We’re delighted with the dealer and consumer feedback we’ve gathered so far. We’ve completed extensive consumer research at our pilot sites and have obtained feedback from our dealers, all of which has been overwhelmingly positive. Ninety-one per cent of consumers questioned agreed that the changes to the forecourt image improved the petrol station. We will continue to engage with both these audiences over the coming months and years as their ideas and input will help to shape any further improvements we introduce.”

One of the sites that took part in the redesign pilot was JET Cothouse Service Station near Dunoon. Scott Murray who runs the site with his father, Alistair, and brother, John, comments: “We really like the new image and logo. It looks very modern, dynamic and professional. The grey works particularly well and the new canopy is sleek. The modern pole sign design is definitely an improvement and having all the prices displayed is great for pricing clarity. We’ll certainly see the benefits of the new LED lights when the winter nights draw in! The canopy sets us apart from competition with its angled edges, and the combination of uplighting LED and the LED strips looks fantastic.

“Our customers really like the new design. A refresh is always welcomed by staff and customers as it helps to give a sense of pride in our store. Customers like their local site to look the part!”

JET is rolling the new design out across the network with several sites due to be reimaged by Christmas.