Excitement all round for the forecourt sector last month, what with the rather spectacular Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards (see full report, starting on page 49 and also the awards website www.forecourttraderawards.co.uk); and then the Shell announcement confirming the sale of around 250 sites.

On awards night we had Brazilian dancing girls, celebrity footballing pundits and free beer which made for an extremely lively evening, and kept a sizeable amount of the male audience happy!

We also had the first retailers in a long time to win with a low-volume forecourt many congratulations to Mike and Tim Garner, who stood out among the big boys by redeveloping a small traditional site that many dealers wouldn’t have given a second glance. Even they had pondered whether they would do better to sell the site off for redevelopment. But they took the gamble, raising more than £1m and working through all the planning, legislative and building minefield of redeveloping a site from below-ground up.

They have maximised the potential of a small, awkward-shaped plot, which, combined with their focus on customer service and engaging with the local community, has created a well-rounded modern forecourt that has secured the future of the business.

Competition was fierce and there were many forecourt retailing ’stars’ recognised at the Forecourt Trader awards, which have long been an annual showcase of the brightest and best in the industry. There is no doubt the dealer sector is burgeoning with talent and ambition take a look at the feature on Westmorland Ltd, page 20 for example which is why the Shell news prompted such a positive reaction.

There are dealers up and down the country who are looking to expand and develop their businesses; and as the bidding opportunity for the final tranche of Esso sites closes, so another door opens. Shell sites this time form a long queue!