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    FOCUS ON BUILDING AND DESIGN: Stunning stations


    Members of the general public, when told that there is an award for the design for a petrol filling station, may say ‘But surely they are all the same?’. Obviously, those in the industry know otherwise, as the building and design of forecourts has evolved with the ever-changing needs of today’s drivers and shoppers. Space may not always allow for grandiose plans, but architects have an amazing knack of getting everything in the right place.

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    FOCUS ON HOT BEVERAGES: Big cup winners


    Many forecourt stores have one or two Costa Express machines but the winner of Forecourt Trader of the Year’s Best Hot Beverages Outlet – Rontec Magor Services at junction 23 of the M4 – has four. And what is more the team at the store ensures the machines are always clean and working well which has been reflected in a 98.5% audit score from Costa itself for the care and maintenance of the units.

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    This Friday (November 17) sees the launch of the Coca-Cola Christmas campaign and – love it or loathe it – nothing in the soft drinks’ world says ‘Christmas’ more than Coca-Cola and its red Santa livery.

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    FOCUS ON CAR WASH AND VALETING: Winning at washing


    Budgens Frilford near Abingdon in Oxfordshire was the winner of the Best Valeting Facilities Award at the recent Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards. And when you look at the family run site it’s easy to see why.

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    FOCUS ON OTC MEDS: Rescue remedies


    We all know how difficult it can be to see a doctor so it should come as no surprise that the OTC (over the counter) medicines market is booming. Nielsen stats reveal that it’s worth £2bn in the UK with £144m of that spend going through the independent convenience channel.

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    SPOTLIGHT ON FUEL: Making good progress


    There was a sigh of relief from many forecourt operators last month, when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the Conservatives would delay the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans until 2035.

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    FOCUS ON TOBACCO AND VAPING: One-hit wonders


    We all know that vaping is big business but some forecourts are doing better with the category than others. A prime example is Top 50 Indie Park Garage Group which has invested in its shop-within-a-shop concept, Park & Vape.

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    FOCUS ON CHRISTMAS ALCOHOL: Festive cheer(s)


    In the run-up to this Christmas – just like last year – there will be surveys that say people are being forced to tighten their belts due to the cost-of-living crisis. Of course that is true but on the other hand, because Christmas is such a big event, there will still be consumers who will push the boat out and spend more than they usually do to treat themselves, their families and their friends. But what they choose to buy may change.

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    If you’ve been into one of the big supermarkets lately you’ll have no doubt noticed that they have many Christmas items out on show. It may seem early but you’d be wise to get some Christmas lines out sooner rather than later. The reason? Well, the confectionery companies say that many people like to shop early – spreading their spending across the weeks running up to December 25. According to Streetbees data, 49% of Christmas shoppers planned to shop earlier in 2022, and Mondelez says this trend looks set to continue for this year. And remember that some of those that spend early, eat early too so will be coming back to replace any goodies they’ve eaten.

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    FOCUS ON BREAKFAST: Morning service


    The out-of-home breakfast market is in growth – albeit from a small base. According to Lumina Intelligence figures, in 2021 3.5% of breakfasts were eaten out of home but that rose to just over 4% last year. McDonald’s was king of the out-of-home breakfast market last year, accounting for 12% of sales, with Greggs not far behind – which is good news for all the forecourts that have a Greggs on site. And the best-selling item at breakfast was a pastry followed by a sandwich – probably washed down with a coffee or a tea.

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    FOCUS ON HALLOWEEN: Ghoulish gains


    The supermarkets tend to make it easy for families to celebrate occasions such as Halloween. Shoppers are greeted by mounds of pumpkins and elsewhere can stock up with affordable sweets for Trick or Treating. Asda has long been the go-to place for costumes and, amid a cost-of-living crisis it still has some great value outfits. Prices start at £7 for a Robot Skeleton or Glow in the Dark Gamer Skeleton and even the more elaborate ones cost just £15.

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    FOCUS ON FOOD TO GO: All-day grazing


    We’ve all heard of the term ‘all-day grazing’ but perhaps didn’t realise how relevant it is to the forecourt retail environment – until now. Fresh Food For Now (which owns food-to-go brands including Ginsters and Urban Eat), recently carried out in-depth research into food-to-go which revealed a total of 14 distinct food-to-go missions – plus one more for forecourts: all day grazing.

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    FOCUS ON FORECOURT MAINTENANCE: Why proactive rather than reactive pays off


    Equipment is the lifeblood of business and must be kept running at peak efficiency to satisfy customer expectations and maintain operational profitability. Nowhere is this truer on the forecourt where pumps, jet washes, air and water and now EV charging are typically what drivers enter your sites for.

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    Once was the time when a forecourt’s pole sign simply showed the fuel brand and the price – today it communicates much more than that. There’s the symbol group under which the store trades, the food to go that customers can expect to find inside (think Greggs or Subway) and then, of course, the coffee brand.

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    FOCUS ON BIG NIGHT IN: The key ingredients


    There’s no doubting that the cost-of-living crisis has led to changes in consumer behaviour. But cutting back on going out – to a restaurant or the cinema – has been nothing but good news for the Big Night In occasion. Data from YouGov finds that 68% of UK adults have cut back by spending less on going out, and more on staying in with friends and family instead. Jose Alves, head of Häagen-Dazs UK at General Mills UK, says: “According to new research commissioned by Häagen-Dazs, more than a third of shoppers would choose a Big Night In (BNI) over going to a pub, bar, or restaurant to save money over the next six months, with one-in-three already hosting a BNI at least once a week.

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    ​ FOCUS ON BREAD AND BAKERY: Use your loaf


    When it comes to bread the advice is clear: never run out of best sellers. It seems quite obvious but still some stores get it wrong. And, with more and more forecourt stores doubling as the local convenience stores, maintaining availability of staples such as bread and milk is vital.

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    FOCUS ON EV CHARGING: Not-so-rapid rollout


    The race to provide EV charging across the UK continues with BT the latest to sign up. The communications giant’s start-up and digital incubation team, Etc., is conducting trials to turn BT’s street cabinets into EV charging units.

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    Prime is back in the news – for all the wrong reasons. Apparently some schools have banned the Hydration version after calling it a ‘distraction’ while the Energy version of the drink is being criticised for its high caffeine levels, particularly as so many kids are attracted to the brand. However, we all know the saying that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’, so we can expect sales to rocket further. Prime is much more widely available than it has ever been – every Spar store in the land seems to have it, for example.

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    FOCUS ON SECURITY: Facing crime


    Most weeks Forecourt Trader reports on incidents of drive-offs from petrol stations. It could be a spree in one area or it could be someone in court for a series of offences. Unfortunately it looks like our reporting of these stories is not going to stop any time soon.

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    FOCUS ON PETCARE: Feeding time


    If you thought the cost-of-living crisis was bad for consumers, it’s even worse for many pets. During the pandemic, pet ownership went through the roof as people working from home bought fun and furry companions. The prices of pedigree dogs rocketed to eye-watering levels as breeders cashed in on the surge in popularity. But fast forward to today and, according to UK Pet Food (formerly known as the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association) 3.7 million households admitted to giving up a pet last year.