Retailers can expect to hear about any revisions in their Business Rates bills by the end of June. That was the message from Brian Madderson, RMI Petrol
chairman, at the International Forecourt and Fuel Equipment (IFFE) show at the Birmingham NEC last month.
Madderson said he was hoping that within three months the industry including RMI Petrol members, the ACS and UKPIA could finally reach an agreement with the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) on an amended scheme.
Speaking at the Forecourt Showcase event at IFFE, Madderson added: "The April 1 deadline is virtually upon us and so the assessments we have as retailers for sites will become due. But we are continuing to negotiate with the VOA and we are hopeful that within three months we will have managed to get some revision on all three divisions of the forecourt: fuel margins, car wash and shop."
He warned that any reductions might not be as high as some retailers would like, but for others it could be more than they were expecting. Madderson told the audience at the Showcase event, hosted by Forecourt Trader editor Merril Boulton, that when a decision had been made by the VOA, retailers would receive a VOA notice to advise of the changes and new amounts payable and these should arrive within four to six weeks of the decision. Retailers can then apply for any back-dated rates that they have over-paid. If the new amount is not satisfactory they can then appeal but Madderson stressed that retailers must first seek professional advice.
Madderson, who has been widely publicising the issue in the media, added: "We’re going forward with this... It’s not over yet."
On fuel, he predicted that the price per litre would stick at around £1.20 through the summer, adding: "Post election, the Conservatives have pledged an emergency new Budget. And Labour could also come in with an emergency Budget after the election. I can see VAT going up to 20%, and more duty being added to fuel." He warned there was also the likelihood of added pressure on fuel prices related to the exchange rate of the pound against the dollar.
Other panel members at the Showcase seminar, which was used to discuss the latest issues affecting the forecourt market, included Harvest Energy head of logistics and sales, Simon Davis, who revealed the company had signed its first site in Scotland.
He highlighted how retailers should be dealing with their suppliers over biofuels, warning: "If retailers hear they are to start getting ethanol product then they need to ask their supplier what precautions they have taken to make sure it will be water-free. The same goes for biodiesel to a certain extent."
Fellow panel member Edward Wheeler, managing director of Eurotank Environmental, joined the biofuels debate, warning retailers not to rely on traditional methods of keeping tanks water-free as many methods were now out of date. He stressed the importance of retailers carrying out thorough cleaning and regular checks of tanks to keep bugs at bay. Meanwhile, Wilcomatic managing director Kevin Pay gave a presentation which highlighted the importance of water reclamation in the car wash sector and how it offers big cost savings to retailers.
In other parts of the IFFE show, some of the biggest names in the industry took the opportunity to showcase their latest initiatives, including AIR-Serv, Car Wash UK, Dresser Wayne, GB Oils/Gulf, Pace Fuelcare and PetroTechnik.
IFFE ran from March 21-24 alongside the Convenience Retailing Show (CRS), food-to-go trade show Cafe+@CRS, and new Off Licence Show, Food & Drink Expo, Food & Drink Logistics, Foodex and the Baking Industry Exhibition.
Visitors who flocked to the show included Glen Miller of Miller Motor Group, Colchester, who was full of praise for IFFE: "It’s always worth coming to IFFE because it’s like an open catalogue of the forecourt industry. This visit I was looking at cash handling and wet stock control."
Susie Hawkins from Top 50 Indies Simon Smith Group was also among retailers visiting stands at the show. Susie was interested in the Omnicash ATMs and Cash Handling Solutions stand.
She said IFFE was excellent for networking and meeting people.
Meanwhile, Adam Cassell of Enham Service Station, Andover, said: "We’re just buying a garage so it’s good for us to see what’s available. The show is great for us. I came on the first day then returned with my manager. I’ve picked up some excellent ideas for the business."
IFFE 2011 will take place at the Birmingham NEC from February 27 to March 1, 2011
Harvest Energy used its stand to show its brand. Managing director Simon Davis (pictured), told Forecourt Trader: "We’ve had a very good show with lots of positive leads and interest from independents. We wanted to show off our brand it’s not the same just seeing a picture of it. We want to be seen as a fuel supplier to independents as well as to the supermarkets."
JSM Developments had seen a lot of interest in its new low-cost mobile tank cleaning and fuel polishing solution. The Driffield, East Yorkshire-based company, offers a full tank clean including suction lines and filters for £595 plus VAT and a de-water and de-sludge for E5 preparation for £275 plus VAT. The company said it had seen a lot of interest and particularly from Ireland where the biofuel issue is becoming a hot topic.
Torex showcased the latest upgrades to its well-known platform Iridium and Prism. According to the company, key features include real-time data and stock transfer and a more scaleable back-office database for multi-site operations. The latest version of the Torex integrated outdoor payment terminal aimed at fast-pay operations was also on display. It uses the Torex designed forecourt interfaces that support integrated wet stock and remote monitoring applications.
Wilcomatic launched a new jet wash called The Tempest as well as two vacuums and an air and water tower at IFFE. Paul Bruen (pictured), the company’s business development director, said they had all been designed in-house by Wilcomatic subsidiary Working Water. The two vacuums are the Storm Delux and Eco Storm and are aimed at independent retailers. For more info see page 41.
Car Wash UK launched its Safetveyr Handywash Automated Hand Car Wash System at IFFE. The company said the flat-top conveyor track measures just 10cm (4") high and can be easily be installed onto the existing wash-bay floor. And if the twin conveyor system is installed within a 10 metre wash bay, two operators can easily wash and dry 20 cars an hour. See Equipment News on page 41 for more information.
And at CRS...
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) ran a free advice centre offering the chance to discuss all the issues convenience retailers face.
The JTI and C-Store Champions lounge gave visitors the opportunity to meet representatives of tobacco company JTI and discuss the latest trends in tobacco and merchandising advice.
Over at the Café+Live demonstration area Malcolm Heslop, channel manager for travel at Costa Coffee, gave an interesting presentation. Responsible for the coffee company’s Moto, Roadchef, Esso and P&O accounts, Heslop talked about getting the right delivery in store. He said: "People are the most important part of a coffee shop, it’s the barista who drives sales because they give customers an experience. New products come and go but the fundamental reason Costa does well is its team of great coffee and great service."
Coffee Nation showcased the latest addition to its range, Classic Plus+ which is a hybrid of the original 2G Touch platform. According to Coffee Nation, cleaning time is reduced to once a day, while the Classic Plus+ is 50% more energy-efficient.
Kingsmill introduced its new Oatilicious loaf a combination of wheat flour and wholegrain oats, aimed at the ’healthier white’ market segment.