When I look back over the past 20 years trading as a convenience petrol retailer, the change has been enormous. At the start when the oil company logo was above the door, we were viewed with the suspicion that everything we sold would somehow be smeared with oil or smell of petrol. Nowadays, the retail excellence from all sites really sets the standard of convenience retail in the UK. Over 50% of sites now boast a symbol brand above the door. There were always good sites throughout that time and the difficulty now is that most sites are great sites.
Halloween this year was interesting. A few years ago it was a great opportunity for a small number of stores to sell unique products for about a week. Now everyone in retail does it and does it better each year. Despite the opportunity growing exponentially over the past three years, with the farmers selling from their fields and to retailers across the country, the result is massive over-supply into the market and a surefire opportunity becomes a bit hit and miss. This made me wonder what the next five years have in store for petrol retailing.
Oil company apps allowing payment at pump will be with us soon, how will this impact our footfall? Can our shops really trade as standalone stores? Electric charging for the masses could become a reality: it may be that a 10-minute charge will take over from the £5 of fuel that many need for their daily mileage. So it could be that we see customers more often, not less.
So we need to gear up to provide the consumer with an unmissable offer. Another area of opportunity is Click and Collect. And this will get bigger and bigger.
All our excellent breakfast and lunchtime food offers need to finally break into the evening market. Each site must have a USP whether it’s food, car wash, local convenience, butchery or just fantastic service. It may be that a concession is the best way forward for many, as standards are very high and the draw to the all-important millennials, huge. What will be the factors that bring shoppers to your store rather than a competitor? You can guarantee that the wounded supermarkets are working like mad on that very question. It’s going to get incredibly competitive out there.
Nowadays we have to stand out from what remains of the crowd.