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Style and substance
11 February, 2019

The very impressive Applegreen Spaldwick site in Cambridgeshire walked away with the Best Design and Development prize at the 2018 Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards, and it's easy to see why. It's a brilliant site with excellent facilities and it looks amazing.

When designing a new forecourt it could be easy to get carried away with getting the right seating for the coffee lounge or the perfect lighting for the fresh food area and forget about the basics. However, that's not what happened at Applegreen Spaldwick.

Although today's forecourts are about much more than fuel, fuel is what brings many people onto a site so things like the pole sign and canopy are important.

Applegreen says the canopy is vital in communicating the brand as quickly and strongly as possible so has to be visible to the motorist from all angles, day and night. To make this work at Spaldwick the site has two price signs, one facing the main A14 and the other towards the village of Spaldwick needless to say there is easy access to the site from both directions. The company uses large Bever displays, which it says are both attractive and effective.

As for the canopy itself, it has aluminium at its core. And the text on the canopy is illuminated using high-quality GE LEDs to ensure a warm and inviting glow that is consistent throughout the entire estate and has the brand looking its best at night.

The forecourt layout at Spaldwick is spacious, allowing for maximum use of all the pumps and ensuring free flow of traffic during peak hours. There are four pump islands at Spaldwick with ample room either side to fill your car and safely walk to the main building. And there's plenty of parking, with 44 spaces on the forecourt.

Applegreen says the aim of the layout inside the building is to provide simple options for customers, whether they just want to grab a quick takeaway coffee and pay for their fuel or want to take a break and relax in comfortable surroundings.

Costa, Greggs and Subway food and drink offers are all available and there is a café-style seating area with wide panoramic windows that allow natural light to flood in. Power points and free wi-fi are available in this area.

In addition there are modern toilet facilities that would put many hotels and restaurants' facilities to shame.

Outside there is a terrace for anyone wanting to eat or drink al fresco during the warmer weather. And adjacent to this is an innovative all-weather children's play area that includes slides, tunnels and climbing frames and is securely fenced from the main road.

Design manager, Sarah Kenyon, says: "Applegreen prides itself on trying to evoke a feeling of warmth and welcome to its sites. In order to do this we rely heavily on numerous elements of design such as a warm colour pallet, comfortable and inviting seating and feature lighting.

"We believe that these, along with extra touches such as wall art and bespoke shop fixturing, create an environment that will entice the customer back time and time again.

"Like most brands Applegreen has a fairly well developed brand pallet and design ethos which means that when entering any of our sites the customer should feel immediately aware of where they are and what to expect. That said as designers we are constantly looking to improve this experience and in every new site we look to surprise and delight our customers with something new to enhance their experience."

She explains that Applegreen's designs evolve with customers' needs: "We are looking to install new technology into sites such as digital ordering points which have fast become a standard in the food court arena. While technology can be an exciting addition to any site, as a brand we are also keen to maintain an element of personalisation to each site and so, when revisiting designs, this will always be in the forefront of our minds."

Design touches

Andy Kennedy, business development director at Global-MSI, says they are seeing a trend for dealers trying to differentiate themselves by incorporating their own design touches into their new buildings. "This is to give a familiar feel to the sites that the public will get to know and recognise. A couple of examples of recently completed shops are Dearne Valley for the Kay Group and MRH Barton Mills with their distinctive Archimedes building, for which we won the APEA Best New Retail Forecourt award."

Kennedy says both dealers and oil companies are increasing the size of their sales buildings to accommodate either a larger shop offer, a food-to-go outlet, or both.

"This is being achieved by extending the existing shop or knocking down and replacing it with a larger purpose-built unit. From a design and build point of view, we are finding a steel frame building with cladding walls is the preferred solution these days. Not only is this cost effective, but it also means a reduction in overall build-to-opening time for the operator."

On an environmental front, Kennedy says the design and materials of its new structures ensure a high thermal performance. "We often exceed current building regulations, air tightness and SBEM requirements when designing a structure for our clients. We are presently working with a major oil company enabling them to greatly exceed the current regulations on building thermal performance. This is assisting them to meet their stringent carbon footprint reduction targets as well as reducing their energy usage on site."

With regards to canopies, Kennedy says they are seeing more and more requests for non-standard designs to differentiate sites and make them stand out from the crowd. "Great visual effects can be achieved by raking columns, angled roofs, irregular shaped decks or having different finishes to under sheeting and fascia. We can accommodate most requests and are happy to work with the client to achieve the visual impression they are trying to convey."

He says one thing operators should be aware of is the new requirement in the Design and Construction of Filling Stations Blue Book (fourth edition) for canopies to have a clear height of 4.75m to avoid strikes.

Global MSI was involved in the redevelopment of Triangle North Cave in Brough, and delivered the main structure and glass works for the building.

The Triangle site originally opened in the 1930s and was purchased by Triangle Motor Co Ltd in the late 1940s as an existing petrol station and car showroom. It was then developed over the years as a motor dealership and BP forecourt until the car sales side of the business was sold off in the 1990s.

When the M62 was built, Triangle was positioned at junction 32, offering considerable potential as a petrol forecourt.

Sales director, Andrea Bogg, takes up the story: "The forecourt improvement in the 1990s saw the demolishing of some of the older buildings, which opened up the site for more forecourt traffic. In the 2006 development new tanks and canopy were installed and a slightly larger shop built. In 2016 it was decided to completely redevelop the site into something modern, injecting theatre into the shop, while still recognising the long history of serving the local community. This was completed in December 2017, when it reopened for business."

Along with a new 2,000sq ft shop with a hot food-to-go area, the site now offers six fuel lanes for cars and vans, four lanes for commercial vehicles, jet wash, facilities for air and water, an ATM machine, showers and public toilets and an overnight lorry park that can accommodate eight vehicles.

"As we are located in primarily a local area, it was important that the forecourt catered for both the needs of the local community as well as the itinerant traffic," explains Andrea.

"The shop itself was a purpose- built design and is warm, airy and modern which, while being innovative in design, is also practical to work in and is customer friendly."

Andrea says they chose their architects with care and appointed Jennings Design Ltd. "They were able to design us a building with the imagination that met our aspirations. Although we knew what we basically wanted, it was by working with Neil and his team that delivered the building we now have. Our main pump contractor was Westfield Pump and Tank who we have dealt with for many, many years."

She says their regular customers have been amazed at their new shop, which has also attracted many new customers.

Andrea says that although the costs were higher than originally thought, they knew that because of the site's location, there was a large untapped market which would give a positive return.

"After 12 months our predictions have been realised. The build, at times, was extremely stressful but would we do it again? Yes, we would! My advice to other potential developers is to do as much research as possible, pick your contractors with care, take advice, clear your diary, expect problems and never worry about saying 'No' to something you're not 100% happy with."


Vapouriz's Shop within a Shop

The 'Shop within a Shop' concept that's so popular in department stores and is even now seen in the grocery multiples could soon be seen in forecourts thanks to vaping brand Vapouriz.
The company's CEO, Brett Horth, says: "Vapouriz is keen to explore the benefits of these solutions within the vaping category, bringing together our brand, retail and expertise with someone else. This brings great opportunities for retailers to take advantage of high margins available in this sector and expand the availability of products to consumers. The idea of working alongside experienced retailers, while sharing common values, goals and interests provides a complementary benefit to both parties.
"At Vapouriz we see the 'Shop within a Shop' format as a logical extension for our existing partners. Customers often start with a simple CDU, holding roughly 40 e-liquids. As consumer demand takes off, retailers look to expand their offer and capitalise on the high profit margins available. We have several retail solutions to help them with this and a 'Shop within a Shop' is a pinnacle of that journey. This format brings the benefits of our successful Vapestore retail division to the retailer's existing customer base. Staff are trained to the same high standard as those in our own Vapestore shops, with extensive training in our wide range of manufactured liquids, making this the perfect retail solution."
Horth says Vapouriz can work with forecourt owners to create the best retail solutionfor their business and its size.


Extra shelf appeal

Lighting, flooring, refrigeration and shelving all have their part to play in the design of a store. At Roadchef Norton Canes' 1,119sq ft Spar store they have used exposed brick walls which contrast well against white wash brick walls and there's a huge window which allows natural light in. Also in-store is a visual graphic of a deer at Cannock Chase a local area of natural beauty.
The sandwiches and chilled snacking lines are displayed in low-level chillers that complement the rest of the store. These are branded with vinyl graphics that signpost the products and ranges within. There are two Cook freezers which are housed in wooden surrounds.
The traditional grocery range and non-food offer are displayed on grey CAEM shelving which gives the store a contemporary look and feel that sits perfectly with the industrial open ceiling and exposed brick walls. In addition bespoke wooden fixtures are used to display in-store bakery lines and premium gifting lines from Blakemore Fine Foods.
The store uses electronic shelf edge labels for all products.


When a major car manufacturer like Ford predicts that sales of its electrified cars will outnumber petrol and diesel models by 2022, does that ring alarm bells about the possible speed of change for forecourts?