Over recent years, the forecourt and convenience sectors have been merging closer together, with more stores now considering themselves to be ’convenience plus fuel’ rather than primarily traditional fuel retailers. This has led to the emergence of hundreds of fantastic new store formats that often lead the rest of the convenience sector in growing categories like food to-go, in-store bakeries and top quality coffee. As a result, the forecourt convenience sector (without including the value of fuel sales) is now worth over £4bn to the UK economy. For the first time this year, we have produced a forecourt report looking specifically at the makeup of these stores.

Looking at the report, there is no doubt that forecourt stores lead the rest of the convenience sector when it comes to food service. More than two thirds of stores have a coffee machine on site (compared to just a quarter of stores in the overall convenience sector), with 40% offering an in-store bakery and 42% providing a dedicated hot food counter (both far more widespread than the convenience sector as a whole).

Forecourts are also early adopters of new technologies to improve the customer experience, with far more introducing contactless payment (64% of forecourts compared to 33% of the convenience sector) and click and collect (22% of forecourts compared with 13% of the convenience sector).

In the wider convenience sector, having friendly staff is considered the most important factor in driving customers into stores and this is also the case for forecourts. However, the report shows that forecourt operators realise that it’s not just the friendliness of staff that is important to customer loyalty, it’s also how well trained they are. Staff training was seen as the number one way for forecourt operators to add value to their business, and as stores develop a more diverse service offering, having well-trained, motivated staff will be essential to success.

We also know that forecourt stores are investing proportionately more in their stores than the convenience sector as a whole. The forecourt report tells a very positive story, and this is an exciting time to be part of the forecourt sector. For more information about the report, go to www.acs.org.uk