First you need to enter and to make your entry as good as it can be. Winners are people who know how to get themselves noticed. They have done the right things to attract the attention of the judges, not just because their forecourts are the best in class, but because they've managed to communicate that fact in their entry. Many of you probably think your site is as good as, if not better than, many sites that have won in previous years, and yet you didn't get past the first hurdle. But did you give yourselves the best chance?
You can be sure we go to great lengths to make sure the competition is as fair as possible. There is no favouritism we just want the best sites and the best retailers in our industry to come to the fore. After all, they may have something to teach us all advice that can help improve everyone's business.
But we believe everyone should have an even chance of winning something at our awards, and if you think you've got something to shout about, you need to make sure you've maximised your chances. It all starts with the entry form.
How to Enter
You can enter online by going to the awards website www.forecourttraderawards.co.uk.
You can also enter by post by going to the awards website, downloading an entry form, completing it and sending it in, with photographs, to Rebecca George, Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards 2016, William Reed Business Media, Broadfield Park, Crawley, West Sussex, RH11 9RT.
An entry form is also obtainable by calling Rebecca George on 01293 610422 or emailing her at email@example.com.
Double-check that your entry form has been completed correctly with the site's full name, address and telephone details. Please tick the right region and annual fuel volume for your site. You don't want to be knocked out of the competition because you've entered the wrong category. The error may not be noticed until too late in the judging process and your entry would have to be withdrawn.
Read the entry form thoroughly so that you understand the rules and what's expected of you. You need to include a separate sheet explaining why you think your site should be a winner. This is your chance to highlight any big achievements, successes or elements of your business of which you are particularly proud.
The form also includes the judging criteria for the specialist categories use these as guidelines, not just for how to run that particular category of your business, but also as a BIG CLUE as to what the judges are looking for.
Categories to enter
Regardless of ownership or operational status, the main retailer categories will be grouped by two main criteria region and fuel volume. Retailers can compete for the high-status title of being the Best Forecourt Retailer in one of six regions: Scotland; Northern Ireland; Northern England; Midlands; West Country and Wales; and London and the South East. There is also a category for Best Motorway Services Outlet. There will be two volume categories up to 4mlpa and more than 4mlpa.
There will be two winners in each region representing the two volume categories. The overall Forecourt Trader of the Year will be chosen from the regional and motorway winners.
Eight of the specialist categories require written entries details are on the entry form. In 300 words, bearing in mind the judging criteria detailed in the entry pack, you should clearly explain the merits of this particular part of your business.
We can't stress enough the importance of good photographs. The early rounds are judged anonymously using only the pictures you've sent in.
YOU CAN'T BE JUDGED ON WHAT WE CAN'T SEE!
Don't just send in a picture of the front door (yes, it's been done!). The photographs should give a good impression of both the interior and exterior of your site. They need to be bright and clear, so try not to take the outside shots on a dull, rainy day, if at all possible.
And if you're entering a specialist category, make sure the photos show how you are meeting the judges' criteria. If you have multiple displays for some products, for example, let's see them.
The pictures need to be good quality digital photographs, sent in on a disc or memory stick, or uploaded onto the online entry form.
For the main regional categories you need to submit: external photos of the forecourt; fuel pumps; external photos of the shop front; till point; and general interior shots of the store.
The judging team is chaired by Forecourt Trader editor Merril Boulton, and includes our very own Shop Doctor; Arthur Renshaw of Catalist; and the previous year's Forecourt Trader of the Year winner. The sponsors are also involved in the first round of judging.
The process involves looking at all the entries, which are presented anonymously. This round relies predominantly on the photographs you have sent in, so make sure they show off your forecourt and facilities to their best advantage. Marks are also given for the written entries.
A shortlist for each region and category is drawn up and judges then take to the road to visit the top-scoring sites. Cleanliness, tidiness and friendly and helpful staff are key elements for consideration at this stage, as well as adherence to the criteria for the specialist categories. If the site is every bit as good as the photographs suggest, it goes on to the final round. If it doesn't come up to scratch, judges move down the shortlist to the next highest scorer, and so on. So don't let standards slip once the pictures have been taken.
There will be three finalists in each of the specialist and regional categories. The Forecourt Trader of the Year is chosen from the winners of the regional and motorway categories.
The awards are about high standards of operation in the industry. If you think you've got what it takes to win, visit www.forecourttraderawards.co.uk now.
If you think your site excels in a particular area there are 11 specialist categories to enter:
Best Car Care & Lubricants Outlet
Best community engagement
Best customer service
Best design & development
Best food-to-go outlet
Best forecourt loo
Best forecourt innovation
Best hot beverages outlet
Best site manager
Best soft drinks outlet
best valeting facilities