Paul Harrison, projects lead at DRB UK, discusses the importance of aesthetics when it comes to forecourt experience, and explains what areas need to be addressed to maximise return on investment.

FT Signage image (00000004)

Planned preventative maintenance (PPM) is a key aspect of forecourt management, ensuring that equipment is working efficiently and safely while preventing expensive repairs and downtime.

Modern forecourts are about more than just fuelling, however, and a good PPM strategy should also include the elements that attract customers and encourage repeat business.

There are over 8,300 forecourts in the UK, 88% of which offer retail alongside re-fuelling services.

The forecourt environment has evolved over the years to suit the demands of modern travel, from a simple place to fill up (or recharge) your vehicle to a convenience destination – somewhere for drivers to rest and shop before continuing their journey.

In fact, the ‘extras’ of the forecourt experience are becoming more significant than the fuel. One forecourt industry leader released figures in 2019 that showed that more than 65% of visitors to its sites in Northern Europe only made retail purchases – in response, it plans to expand non-fuel retail (NFR) by opening 5,000 new convenience stores by 2025.

Maintain your brand with regular PPM

When it comes to PPM, ensuring fundamental equipment is working as it should must be prioritised; keeping customers safe is of paramount importance and reactive repairs and downtime cost far more than preventative action. But with NFR contributing considerably to overall profits, the elements designed to draw customers in and enhance their experience should also be a key consideration.

Attractive and clear signage and branding, clean canopies, working lighting and general upkeep is essential. PPM in the modern forecourt is about much more than safety and operational certainty.

What needs checking and why?

We see a lot of forecourts that have invested in a re-brand and/or upgrades to the external and internal trading areas, only to let it fall into disrepair. According to a recent study from the US, 99% of customers said they would not return to a shop / forecourt if it was dirty or facilities were not working as they should. Facilities and services alone are not enough to encourage repeat custom – a clean and well-presented site is what influences consumer perception and builds trust and loyalty.

Areas that need to be regularly inspected include:

  • All branding / signage
  • Fascias / canopies
  • Main identification signs / totems
  • All site illumination All painted surfaces
  • Car wash and pumps
  • Regulatory health and safety notices
  • Fencing and surrounding perimeters
  • All aspects of the site in general

Maintain, care and protect

Setting up a forecourt is a huge investment and as our sector evolves, constant upgrades are required – adding electric vehicle charging, for example. This initial and ongoing investment requires a return and a clear and consistent strategy for upkeep to avoid expensive off-plan repairs.

While PPM can often seem like a significant spend, it is nothing compared to the cost of downtime caused by failed/unsafe equipment or reputational damage. Ultimately, in the case of both fuelling and retail facilities, ignoring any part of the forecourt experience will lead to loss of profits.

PPM is a long-term investment that leads to:

  • Cleaner and more attractive/inviting forecourts
  • Protection of brand reputation
  • Increased footfall
  • Enhanced safety of all visitors
  • Compliance with all areas of the law
  • Improved reliability of critical infrastructure
  • Extended life expectancy of valuable assets
  • Reduction in unplanned events, such as equipment failure and downtime.

New ‘Care and Protect’ package from DRB

Leading forecourt maintenance and branding experts, DRB now offers a full forecourt PPM package, covering everything from ensuring pumps, EV charging and car wash facilities are working, to keeping signage fresh and a site in general good repair and cleanliness.

Covering both the external areas and retail facilities, clients can choose a PPM package to suit, based on the services and timeframes required.

With regular inspections and remedial works undertaken by one trusted supplier, unplanned call-outs are reduced and managers can have peace of mind that everything is working and looking as it should.