Forecourt Trader
Dealers unsure in wake of Q8 sale

The retail and distribution operation newly acquired from Kuwait Petroleum GB last month, is likely to be renamed Pace Petroleum Ltd. And an old face from the past, Brian Handley, the former boss of Fina’s retail operations prior to its merger with Total, is thought to be the new managing director.

Lifeline for Scottish retailers

All rural petrol stations in Scotland will be able to apply for funding from a scheme that supports the availability of fuel in rural Scotland.

Call to axe label laws

UKPIA has called on the government to withdraw legislation on labelling of petrol pumps because it refers to an out-of-date British Standard and offers inadequate protection for the motorist.

Villagers angry at site closure plans

Residents in a picturesque Leicestershire village are furious at Texaco, which is planning to close the oldest filling station in the county to make way for houses.

Don't be taken in

I read an article which concentrated on the recent volatile rise of the oil price. This commodity is in short supply and has a growing demand. We are told that problems in Russia/Nigeria Venezuela/Iraq or demand in China/India/USA are to blame, and each news item from any of these countries puts the price up. Such is the money to be made from the speculation on oil that many banks have set up specialist departments, and these same banks are even offering supplies to large users. The example was Morgan Stanley

Watch out for food trends says report

Forecourt retailers have to react quickly to new market trends and developments in shop product lines if they want to develop a contemporary shop offering to compete with traditional convenience stores, according to a new report by independent market analyst, Datamonitor.

News in brief

BP AND TEXACO charge the most for a litre of unleaded fuel in the UK, while Asda is the cheapest, according to the TNS Petrol Panel, which continuously tracks and analyses the UK forecourt market.Shell is the lowest priced major and its average retail price means it was cheaper than all supermarkets except Asda. The average gap between Asda and BP and Texaco was around 3ppl, and Sainsbury’s and Tesco saw the smallest movement in price levels with the smallest variance between their minimum and maximum price

Sunny outlook

Independent dealers are now ‘catching up’ with oil companies in terms of the quality of their store operations, according to the latest report from the Institute of Grocery Distribution – Convenience on the Forecourt 2004. The report shows that most forecourt sites now have some form of shop, with almost 90% of forecourt stores qualifying as ‘true’ c-stores – that is, according to grocery industry definition, a store of less than 3,000sq ft, which sells food and grocery, including at least half of a list of 15 specific grocery categories.

Fosseway service station, on the A429 Cirencester/Stow on the Wold road, Gloucester

GENERAL APPEARANCE: This joint-branded Londis Texaco site is located on the busy A429 and very near to the tourist ‘honey pots’ of Bourton-on-the-Water and The Slaughters. Judging from its geographical position this should be a gold mine and indeed it may well be, but it looks in urgent need of some TLC.

Forecourt wages rise over 5% in a year

Each september since 1998, PAYEpeople® (part of the EKW Group) have undertaken a major exercise to monitor and report the real level of wages paid on petrol retail sites across the UK. In a particular week of September we examined every hourly wage transaction that was processed from petrol retail operators using the PAYEpeople® service. This year that meant looking at 6,961 hourly-paid employees at 857 retail sites from one end of the country to the other.

It's free - but there's a catch

Here is a bit of a masterclass on ‘free’ drinks coolers. When Mohammed Arif bought his filling station and store two months ago in Cannock, Staffordshire, he thought he had bought all the fixtures and fittings as part of the deal. He renamed the business Top Shop Services, filled the cooler with the sort of drinks he believed his customers would readily buy, and commenced trading. Soon a rep happened by, representing GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and grumped at him that he had the wrong stuff in his cooler. She insisted that he could only stock Lucozade and Ribena in it. This was news to Mo as he had no agreement with GSK. He rang me because he remembered (as everyone does) the Wall’s ice cream case some years ago whereby the Monopolies and Mergers Commission ruled that Wall’s could not dictate what products went into its free freezers.

Stamping out profits

Do you sell stamps? If so you’ve probably noticed the reduction in margin on second class stamps to three per cent. Were you informed? I must admit, if there was a whole heap of hype as claimed by Royal Mail, I missed it. Steve Dyer, from Thornfalcon Garage in Taunton, Somerset, missed it too. “Have I been in a coma?” he asks. At the same time the margin on first class stamps has been raised to seven per cent, but this does not mollify Steve. “I am not in the swings and roundabouts game. If an item cannot achieve a margin of five per cent then I do not consider it viable to sell – even petrol can achieve five per cent on a good day!”

And he spoke too soon

While having a satisfying rant over stamps, Steve had tempted fate by saying that at least the reduction on margins for phone cards had finally stopped. Oh dear. Five days later, down they went again. His next delivery from Dextra Solutions revealed margins reduced to as low as 3.5 per cent on most networks, “an insulting margin”. Once again, he rang to complain and to ask whether the reduction was down to Dextra or the networks. Dextra, said the girl. Steve explained (politely, he stresses) that, with credit card costs being what they are, it was unviable for him to offer phonecards at this pitiful margin. Her reply gobsmacked him. “Ok, give me your account number and I will close it.” So he did. “It speaks volumes for their commitment to their business and customer base. I only hope there are other retailers who will follow suit and tell them to shove their business where the sun don’t shine,” says Steve.

Melt down

No matter how far round the world you go, it seems the problems of petrol retailers are the same. In Australia the talk is all about low fuel margins, struggling independents, discounting supermarkets and the need to develop a good convenience store. It’s a familiar tale, albeit with a different background.

Country charms

Set on a main road into the Royal Naval Port town of Dartmouth, Devon, Townstal Road Garage has a powerful selling point to keep customers coming back. Aside from the distinctive BP branding on the forecourt and Spar shop fascia, locally sourced products are proving a big hit with shoppers. So much so that local produce accounts for 20% of total shop sales.

Artificial intelligence

In many ways, electronic point of sale (epos) systems are a forecourt trader’s best friend, efficiently taking on board all those mundane, time-consuming tasks you hate, such as stock control, ordering and price promotions.

Well earned

It’s been a hard day at work, it’s late, and now you have a splitting headache, but the cupboard is bare of all painkillers, the chemist is shut, and who wants to park up at Sainsbury’s just for a packet of paracetamol? This is probably a recognisable scenario for many forecourt customers, which is why over-the-counter medicines have become a must-do category.

Forecourt Trader Awards 2004

Forecourt Trader of the Year 2004

Halloween treats

Walkers has launched two limited editions – Quavers Ghosts available in cheese flavour and Monster Munch Spooky Tongue in Pickled Onion flavour – to appeal to the growing Halloween market. Walkers Trade marketing manager Nicky Seal, said: “Halloween is becoming an increasingly important event in the UK calendar, with Halloween parties and Trick or Treating becoming increasingly popular. Quavers Ghosts and Monster Munch Spooky Tongue have been developed to provide additional sales opportunities created by this trend. For retailers to make the most of the opportunity they should display the product in high-traffic locations to capture impulse sales.”

Delightful tasting

Mars Delight is to be part of a £1.7 million sampling activity that will target women with nearly four million full-size bars, in the hope they will experience ‘delightful’ moments.

indulgent bubble bar

Nestlé Rowntree is launching a new indulgent chocolate bar under the popular Aero brand. Aero Caramel combines traditional bubbly Aero chocolate with a thick layer of caramel running through the centre. Available this month, it is a permanent addition to the Aero range and will have an RRP of 42p for 42g.

Rizla's regular launch

Following the successful introduction of Rizla King Size Slim Silver last year, Imperial Tobacco is launching Rizla Regular Sliver on October 1. Regular Silver will be packaged in ourters of 50 booklets offering retailers profit margins of around 50%, or 17.5p on every booklet sold at the recommended retail price of 35p. The thinner rolling papers segment is the most dynamic in the rolling papers category, according to Rizla UK brand manager Gary Keogh, and accounts for 20% of total sales.

McCoys crisps are hot stuff

A limited edition McCoy’s ridge cut crisp in Honey Roast Ham & Mustard flavour has been launched by United Biscuits UK as part of its continuing campaign to grow market share and increase sales in the snacks market. The new limited-edition flavour, which will benefit from a £3.5 million media spend, is available in 50g handypacks with a rrp of 39p. The combination of real food flavours will appeal to the brand’s target male consumer and drive penetration further says Mark Bosomworth, UBUK trading director, retail and convenience.

Walkers' festive frenzy

Walkers is launching its biggest Christmas range which includes Christmas Turkey and Paxo flavoured crisps, limited edition Sensations Nuts, seasonal Sensations flavours, Doritos Decorations and Doritos Christmas Dip, and Sharing Big Bags of New French Fries, Square and Quavers.

Wheelie big shake-up

The biggest shake-up of Wagon Wheels in more than half a century has been announced by Burton Foods. The focus is on six key improvements, including the fact that both variants will be covered in real chocolate; the cinnamon flavoured biscuit will be replaced by a chocolate flavoured biscuit; and Wagon Wheels Original will be replaced by Wagon Wheels Chocolate and will have a chocolate sauce centre.

Robinson plans explosive campaign

Robinsons is to benefit from a £2.5 million ‘Autumn Fun’ campaign, including TV ads, a national door-drop campaign, and in-store and on-line activity, culminating in Robinsons sponsorship of two high-profile firework events in November. The six-week campaign, which kicks off this month, sees 1.5 million leaflets with money-off vouchers and stickers for kids delivered to family homes nationwide, driving awareness of the Robinsons range and new flavours and encouraging trial of premium squash Robinsons High Juice.

Seasonal blend from Del Monte

Del Monte is introducing its first ever Special Edition juice blend – Winter Warmer – to drive category growth and incremental sales in the £1.2 billion still-fruit beverage market. It is a blend of apple, plum, lemon and cinnamon, which can be gently heated. It marks the start of a seasonal programme of limited edition blends from the brand.

Moveable car wash

Eco Technical Services Ltd has come up with a new design for a portable car wash with oil/water separator and water recycling equipment.

Coffee Nation in Tesco Express deal

Around 100 Esso-branded forecourts are among 150 Tesco Express stores to offer Coffee Nation’s self-serve gourmet coffee stations by March 2005.

Signs for the times

Signage and display specialist, Signwaves, has developed a new poster display unit for forecourts.

Mo'gas: An irreverent view from the network

SO FAREWELL, THEN, Kuwait – or not as the case may be! After months of speculation over whether it would be BP or Total, now we know – it’s neither. The curious outcome to the Kuwait (Dutch?) auction is perhaps a fitting end to the curious saga of one of the world’s richest oil producing states attempting to retail in the UK, where it had no resources of its own. Now I can only assume that the Sheikhs had some lucrative swap deal in place in another part of the globe, otherwise there appears little logic in their original decision to be a player in a very mature market.

Fuel prices October 2004

Data supplied by Catalist Ltd