Firstly, many congratulations to all the finalists and winners at last month’s glittering awards ceremony (full report starts on page 45). Particular praise goes, of course, to this year’s Forecourt Trader of the Year winners, Zuber and Mohsin Issa of Euro Garages, who were too modest to come up on stage to collect their award as it was announced, but encouraged members of their much-valued staff to be recognised for their considerable achievements.

The Issa brothers prefer to put their energy into creating some of the most leading-edge developments, not just within the forecourt fraternity, but across the convenience retailing sector as a whole. But I’m not just talking bricks and mortar although their multi-million pound developments are indeed beacons for others to aspire to but the standard of operation. In the summer I covered thousands of miles visiting many, many forecourts that had scored well in our initial judging process. But the Euro Garages sites I saw all had one thing in common. Whatever time of day or night, whatever the weather it was mostly very hot, and many other sites were well-shopped and fully faced. In other words, as a customer - and a judge - I didn’t have to make excuses as to why the shelves looked rather ransacked, the floor was dirty, or there were big boxes of products in the aisles waiting to be put out on shelves. In short, that I’d come at the wrong time on the wrong day.

With reports like the one from Market Force showing that supermarkets are winning in the popularity stakes when it comes to customers’ preferred places to buy fuel, it seems forecourts need to continue to try even harder. Getting feedback from customers as to how you could improve their shopping experience, was one recommendation. Visiting a top Euro Garages site could be another!