Whether it’s the right direction or not, we seem to be hurtling towards an electric future as far as automotive transport is concerned, and we at Forecourt Trader will, as always, endeavour to keep you informed of all the latest developments hence the particular focus on the subject in this issue.
The fuel retailing industry has overcome many challenges over the years, but what’s ahead seems the most radical and uncertain the sector has faced, in that what began as the core of the business refuelling road vehicles could be significantly undermined.
Of course many forecourt operators now see themselves as convenience retailers who sell fuel among a range of other services and that is very positive although depending what type of site you have, doubtless refuelling is a key footfall driver.
But as Certas Energy’s retail director Ramsay MacDonald writes (see Viewpoint, page 25), the key thing is to make the most of the electric revolution, continue to find your niche, and develop ways of engaging with consumers. Most importantly, he says filling stations remain the ideal space to charge a vehicle, while doing everything else that one does on a forecourt.
Of course things won’t change overnight, but many companies are wasting no time in installing electric charging facilities such as MFG (see News, page 5). It’s true that currently there is only a relatively tiny number of electric vehicles on the road there are still too many obstacles for the general public to start buying them, such as price, performance and, well, charging facilities!
But the more that people see the provision for such vehicles on a forecourt, the more they will associate such an establishment with ’re-fuelling’ their vehicles, so that when the electric transport and infrastructure catches up with the eco requirements that are driving such change, they won’t think twice about coming to your site.
There is much to learn about how it will all pan out the best equipment, customer behaviours, and so on; but the industry has to start somewhere, and feel its way forward. As MacDonald says: "We are an innovative and resilient bunch."