What’s happening in forecourts?

Gulf forecourt

It’s been a busy first few months of the year for the forecourt sector in Scotland as it remains buoyant and vibrant. SLR looks at a few of the key developments.

The forecourt sector in Scotland has started 2020 the way it ended 2019, buoyant and lively with the key players also keeping busy and giving forecourt retailers plenty to help them keep motoring. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, of course, thanks to coronavirus. The Petrol Retail Association estimates that around 100 UK filling stations have already closed and many retailers are seeing volumes plummet by up to 85%. Sites with a strong convenience offering, however, have reported significant sales growth of up to 50%, once again reinforcing the importance of a great store on the site.

To bring you up to speed, SLR offers a review of some of the main recent developments in Scotland.

Fuel duty frozen

The recent Budget saw fuel duty frozen for the 10th successive year, despite significant pressure for change.

In his Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I have heard representations that after nine years of being frozen, at a cost of £110bn to the taxpayer, we can no longer afford to freeze fuel duty.

“I’m certainly mindful of the fiscal cost and the environmental impacts. But I’m taking considerable steps in this Budget to incentivise cleaner forms of transport. And many working people still rely on their cars. So I’m pleased to announce today that, for another year, fuel duty will remain frozen.”

Sunak also backed electric vehicles with a commitment to spend £500m to support the rollout of new rapid charging hubs for electric cars, which he said would ensure that drivers were never more than 30 miles away from being able to charge their vehicle.

Certas backs NHS

Certas Energy is offering free hot drinks to all NHS and emergency service workers visiting its sites.

Workers can receive their free hot drink by presenting their work ID or Blue Light Card at any forecourt operated by Certas Energy – with no obligation to make an additional purchase. The offer will continue for the duration of the crisis. All sites owned and operated by Certas Energy Retail remain open as usual to support key workers, businesses and local communities.

Richard Billington, Retail Director at Certas Energy, said: “Our NHS and emergency services are working heroically to save lives during this challenging period. As a small way of saying ‘thank you’, we’re pleased to be offering free hot drinks to all blue light workers.

“We have a duty to serve the communities in which we operate and support our frontline heroes. With many of our petrol stations located in rural areas where there is limited choice for accessing essential services, we’ve seen first-hand the important role that forecourts can play in local communities.

Simpson inks JET deal

Simpson Oils has signed a long-term supply contract with Phillips 66 (JET) for JET-branded fuel supply for its second Scottish Highlands forecourt, Francis Street Service Station in Wick, Caithness.

The 3 mlpa 16 nozzle site is JET’s second most northerly site in the UK – the furthest north being Simpson Oils’ other JET-supplied site, JET Ormlie Filling Station in Thurso.

Simpson Oils acquired Francis Street in September 2019 and has since made some infrastructure improvements, with further plans in place to install new pumps, update the forecourt shop and hopefully add JET ULTRA Premium Unleaded to the fuel offering.

The Francis Street site is located in a prime position on the A99 and attracts a mix of local residents and transient customers, and also benefits from high tourist trade during peak holiday periods as it is located on the North Coast 500 tourist route around the north coast of Scotland.

Hugh Simpson, Director of Simpson Oils, comments: “Having been a Phillips 66 wholesale distributor since 2009, our decision to appoint JET as our supplier for our first venture into forecourt retailing with Ormlie felt like a natural progression. And it was certainly the right decision as we’ve been very impressed with all aspects of JET’s supply package and the positive impact the fuel brand has had on our retail business.

JET adds Highland site

JET has strengthened its presence in the north of Scotland with West End Filling Station in Dingwall joining the fuel brand’s network.

Highland Fuels, a longstanding JET Approved Partner in Scotland, has won the contract to directly supply Phillips 66 fuels to the 2.4 mlpa site, using the JET brand under licence from Phillips 66.

West End Filling Station is owned by independent dealers, Elaine Houston and Steve Cunningham, who took over the site in 2006 and also own Bridgend Service Station in Fife. West End is located in a prime location on Strathpeffer Road, one of the main routes in and out of Dingwall and not far from the town centre, industrial premises and housing.

Since joining the JET network in early November, the forecourt has been fully re-imaged in the latest JET brand and benefits from a range of forecourt design improvements to create a safe, friendly and welcoming environment for customers.

The 19-nozzle forecourt and 2,000sq ft Mace-branded convenience store attract a steady stream of customers and commuters from Dingwall and the surrounding areas. The forecourt also experiences a marked uplift in footfall during the summer months with tourists visiting the Scottish Highlands. On-site facilities include two jet washes, Paypoint, Lottery, a cash point and two Costa coffee machines. The site also boasts a fantastic food-to-go offering and an extensive alcohol selection, with a wide range of malt whiskies and Scottish gins.

Steve comments: “The JET brand is well known in the area and we really liked their new image. Due to the layout of our forecourt, we can only accommodate smaller tankers so the option to have Phillips 66 fuels delivered by Highland Fuels’ smaller tankers to a JET-branded forecourt was the ideal solution for West End. We also get the added bonus of being able to offer our customers JET ULTRA Premium Unleaded fuel, which is proving very popular.

“We’re up against tough local competition, with a large Tesco store and forecourt in the town centre, but with the JET brand now in place, I’m confident that we will attract more customers than ever before.”

Highland Fuels now owns and operates 15 forecourts across Scotland, three of which are JET-branded. The company also supplies dealer sites across Scotland under the Thames and Highland Fuels brands.

MFG donates £600k

Motor Fuel Group (MFG) has announced that its forecourt customers raised a huge £597,565 for charity in 2019.

MFG supports several UK charities including Help for Heroes, NSPCC, RNIB and Air Ambulances UK.

Customers can donate either through its cash collection boxes, or in some stores via its charity partner Pennies – the digital charity box – by topping-up for charity when paying by card.

William Bannister, MFG’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our nationwide network of service stations and stores, provide a key range of products and services for our customers. We value this relationship but, at the same time, we want to use our market leading position to raise money for charities that are known to us all.

“We thank everyone for their kind donations and our target is, of course, to exceed this figure in 2020.”

Point Four Certas deal

Certas Energy has concluded a tie-up with EPoS specialist Point Four that provides Gulf Dealers with industry-best arrangements on latest technology EPoS and Point of Sale Solutions. Point Four’s next generation software opens up additional revenue opportunities for forecourt retailers in areas such as Online Ordering and Click & Collect, Home Delivery, Self Service, Self-Scan and Digital Media.

“We’ve utilised the size and scale of Certas Energy to secure this advantageous arrangement for Gulf Dealers which offers them competitive rates on a range of products and services and the potential to develop a host of new income streams,” explains Alex Friendship, Head of Retail Development, Certas Energy. “It’s that latest example of a tie-up with a market leading supplier to improve the fortunes of Gulf Dealers by reducing their costs and driving up their profitability.”

“Point Four and Appy Shop are delighted to be recognised as a preferred EPoS and Online ordering partner for Certas Energy and their Gulf forecourts,” confirms James Widdowson, Group Sales Director, Point Four. “We are all very excited about the extra revenue potential that this can achieve for Gulf Retailers.”

Henderson promotes Nickels

Northern Ireland-based Henderson Technology, which is increasingly active in the Scottish forecourt sector, has announced the appointment of Darren Nickels to the role of Retail Technology Operations Director.

Ron Whitten, Chief Financial Officer of Henderson Group, said: “Since joining the Henderson Group in 1998, Darren has been a key part of the growth of our technology services. I am pleased to announce his formal appointment to the board of Henderson Technology.

“We have identified key growth sectors and territories for our highly regarded EDGEPoS product and we anticipate this appointment will support our efforts in building further on the success and growth of our customer base across the UK and beyond.”

Gulf adds oomph

Gulf Retail is continuing to grow usage of its innovative Oomph loyalty platform, having recently signed a deal with Spar.

Oomph utilises latest technology to drive new revenues to dealers and is the only fuel loyalty programme that gives dealers access to customer data and allows them to tailor offers to suit.

“It’s an absolute game changer for many retailers,” says Richard Billington, Retail Director at Certas Energy. “Even though it’s still in its relative infancy, we are seeing impressive results and a direct correlation between membership of the scheme and increased site visits.

“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. They also have the tools to delve deep into the shopping basket of a customer and respond accordingly with dedicated calls to action.”

The arrangement with Spar puts at the disposal of the Gulf network 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.

“Our Scottish network is at the heart of our operation and we are committed to growth by offering dealers a much more pragmatic business partnership than any that they’ve had with other fuel suppliers,” concludes Billington.

MFG seeks Regional Manager for Scotland

Motor Fuel Group, the UK’s largest independent petrol station operator, is looking for a Regional Manager based in Scotland to lead a team covering around 100 contract managed sites.

The Regional Manager will cover Scotland and the North of England and will use their skills and experience to grow the business across fuel, food-to-go and store ranges.

Candidates will need:

  • A proven record of delivering standards and performance across multiple sites in the independent, motor fuel or grocery multiples sector;
  • To have successfully developed and managed a regional team;
  • Great commercial acumen;
  • The ability to communicate and influence a range of stakeholders;
  • Strong financial planning and control skills;

In return MFG is offering a competitive salary and benefits package.

Visit the MFG website for more info.