Exelby Services A19 North - NE over & Overall

Rob Exelby, managing director of Exelby Services, took delegates at the Forecourt Trader Summit on a whistle-stop tour of his award-winning A19 Services North site.

Via a video link he explained how the impressive Forecourt Trader of the Year 2021 site had been redeveloped just over a year ago.

“A19 North was an old site of ours that my grandad bought in the late 1960s. It was tired and in major need of refurbishment so we flattened the whole site and started from scratch,” said Rob.

“It’s always hard to gauge when you are building a new site how much business you are going to do. We were thinking maybe 10% more on the HGV forecourt, 30% more on the car

forecourt and 40-50% more in the shop, but already we have far exceeded those targets.”

Rob walked viewers over to the site’s Tokheim Q510 media pumps which are used to show off the latest promotions in the shop. “It’s just something a bit different,” he explainsed. “Most forecourts don’t have media displays on the pumps but having the shop promotions helps drivers make an informed decision before they have even stepped through the doors of the shop. They might get a pizza or a breakfast wrap, and it helps speed up customer transaction times.”

Before Rob took viewers inside the shop he took them to view the exterior. “You may think the shop’s only a year old but it’s rusty already,” he jokds, alluding to the Corten steel exterior that gives the store its dramatic look.

“It’s a little bit Marmite and not for everybody but I was really keen to give it go,” he said. “I had seen it on other projects on Grand Designs and thought it could work really well on the shop building.”

Rob said that he spent £2.5m on the development but as part of the planning deal he had to extend the slip roads at the entrance and exit of the site, which added another £500,000 to the job so took it to £3.1m altogether.

Rob explained that food to go had really helped drive shop sales. He took viewers inside the shop and said: “I was keen to get the shop offer right with a really good food to go partner. I’d been to Graham Kennedy’s site in York and he put Stone Willy’s in. I absolutely loved the quality of the food and the branding, so opted for their Express hot food offer.”

Rob said they were “smashing it” with Stone Willy’s: “The customers love it, the staff love it and I certainly love it – I always take a couple of pizzas away with me when I am at the site.

Rob then gave viewers a peek at the store’s major talking point – the bright red, F1 car that’s mounted on the ceiling.

“Some people only notice it on their way out of the shop because they have their heads down because they are on their phone.

“People ask why did I do it and I say, why not? I’m a big motorsport fan, we’ve been with Shell seven years now and I wanted something different to make the site stand out from the rest of the crowd. I googled replica formula one cars, saw Hungary made replicas, ordered one and nine months later it was here.”

Rob then used the video to introduce viewers to Pat and other staff, whom he said were all “stars of the show”.

Next stop was outside, where Rob took us to his tree planting area. Rob said companies were working towards carbon sustainability and net zero: “We’re a smaller player but as MD I knew we needed to do our bit no matter how small to reach the net zero target.

“I got in touch with my landscaping contractor to see how many trees we could plant. So far we have planted over 100 trees and hope to plant another 100 more.

But it’s not just tree planting on the site, Rob said the solar panels on the forecourt canopy and shop roof give them 60-70 kw of electric generation during the summer months.

“We would struggle to get a good grid connection here. To put in four or six high speed EV chargers would be so expensive but by having the solar and battery back-up system it would potentially enable us to offer EV charging. 

Rob said the Forecourt Trader Summit’s Road Ahead theme was very current and relevant for his company.

“We are looking at future fuels and new systems with hydrogen refuelling, especially on the truck side. While cars are moving to electricity trucks are playing catch up. But there is some very promising data from initial trials with hydrogen and combustion fuel cells. And there are some huge investments on sites like the hydrogen plant at Teesside which is only a stone’s throw from us up the road. So potentially there will be key infrastructure and we want to play a part in that.

Rob ended the tour of his site by saying: “As LGV and HGV make the switch to low-carbon or even zero carbon alternatives will the diesel forecourt behind me be a hydrogen forecourt in 10 or 20 years? I certainly think there is a good chance of that.

“I think as dealers we need to keep our ears to the ground and look at these new technologies and embrace this change. It’s a very exciting time to be in the industry and I am looking forward to seeing how our developments will look in the next 10-20 years.”