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It's free - but there's a catch
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

Forecourt Trader of the Year 2004

Halloween treats
01 October, 2004

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
01 October, 2004

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.

As Brexit day finally arrives at the end of January, are you expecting any negative impact on your forecourt business through leaving the EU?