Revolution site pic

The services available from forecourts nowadays are ever growing. There is fuel obviously (petrol/diesel/electricity), air and water, a car wash, ATM, a decent convenience store, food to go, customer toilets… and much more.

According to the ACS’s Forecourt Report 2023, nearly one-third of forecourts offer click-and-collect, 26% have parcel collection points and 22% offer local grocery deliveries. Further down the list, 2% have a photo booth, 2% offer prescription collections and 1% offer key cutting.

Sharon Hughes, area manager for Top 50 Indie Plaistow Broadway Filling Stations PBFS, is keen to know exactly what her customers want from their six sites. To this end they are currently distributing a leaflet asking customers what extra products and services they would like to see. It includes Rustlers, Rollover and Tango Blast in the food-to-go category as well as whether they would like parcel and laundry services.

Sharon says they used to accept parcels from one of the big firms but it didn’t work out. However, she is not ruling out introducing parcel services again.

“I always have to ask whether staff are comfortable within their role and, particularly when you might have only one person on site, extra services can be difficult to manage. “With the parcel delivery there was not the level of control I would have liked. We started off accepting a few small parcels but as the parcels got bigger and bigger, our small space behind the till was quickly filled. If we’d have had extra storage it would have been fine but we didn’t and security became a concern. There were other problems too with customers having to print off labels in-store and that did not always work and there could be problems scanning the parcels. All in all, we had to give it up.”

Meanwhile, at Parkfoot Garage in West Malling Kent, they offer the Parcelly service and manager Simon Tuffill says it’s going very well for them. “It started off quite slowly with maybe one parcel a week but now we average around 40 a week. It’s manageable; we use an old filing cabinet to store the parcels. It’s just another service to offer our customers. We have the butchers; we have the food to go – it’s good to offer a variety of services. Parcelly takes UPS and DHL parcels. Some customers just come in and drop their parcels off, others do some shopping at the same time.”

Londis InPost Refuel

Lockers drive footfall

For forecourts with unused space, parcel lockers can be a great option.

Top 50 Indie Refuel Forecourts has InPost lockers at its Edens Lawn Service Station in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, and director Jennifer Zokiuddin says they are very well used, so much so that they are rolling the lockers out to more sites.

Tom Lillywhite, head of network growth at InPost UK, says InPost Lockers can increase footfall and grow overall sales as customers using the lockers often make additional purchases when visiting the stores.

“The convenience of collecting and returning parcels while refuelling, or shopping for daily essentials, can make a forecourt a go-to location for consumers, as it makes an already convenient stop-off even more so. Another one of the standout benefits of hosting InPost Lockers is the guaranteed rent we pay landlords, providing an additional income stream, alongside the incremental sales achieved through the increased footfall generated.”

Lillywhite says as consumers’ appetite for online shopping continues to grow, InPost is seeing strong demand for lockers across the UK.

“Our latest research shows that more than half of UK consumers are now using delivery lockers for online purchases, rising to 71% for Gen Zs and 68% for Millennials. Convenience (36%), lower costs (19%) and speed (17%) emerged as the top three reasons for choosing lockers, which very much align with many of the benefits of forecourts. Locker users are also more affluent, with 31% having an income over £50k and 39% shopping once a week or more, presenting significant sales opportunities for forecourt retailers to tap into.”

InPost Lockers are equipped with technology that pairs with an app, which offers tracking and notifications, to help ensure a seamless and user-friendly experience. The lockers are accessible 24/7, providing real convenience for customers who can pick up their parcels at any time, as well as for the retailers themselves with no need for staff intervention or management.

There is no direct cost for retailers to host InPost Lockers. The installation and maintenance of the lockers is handled by the company. Lillywhite says this makes it feasible for most forecourt retailers to integrate these lockers without any major adjustments to their existing setup.

Refuel revolution laundry

Wash and grow

Jennifer at Refuel is a big fan of Revolution laundry and uses the machine they have at their Dunnings Bridge site.

“I think the machine is great and so does everyone else. Our staff use it a lot. We had space at the back of the site so we put it there. We have a poster in our shop window advertising it as well as an A-frame outside – not a great deal of advertising but the machine gets well used.”

Jennifer says the machine runs a 30-minute cycle so most people wait in their car while their washing is doing. “Some come into the shop and get a coffee while they are waiting,” she adds.

Revolution is owned by ME Group, which has more than 400 launderettes in operation at petrol forecourt sites. The company says these laundry services offer a convenient and reliable option for consumers looking to do their laundry. The machines can wash up to 20kg of clothing (a week’s worth of laundry) in one single load in as little as 30 minutes.

The popularity of unattended laundry continues to grow especially given that traditional launderettes have declined in numbers over recent years.

ME Group says as well as benefiting from higher footfall, as these services attract consumers from the surrounding areas, site owners benefit from free installations as part of a profit-share agreement as well as ongoing maintenance from its team of engineers.

In September 2024, the company says it will hit a milestone of 1,000 laundry units deployed across the whole of the UK and will continue to extend its estate.

Another Top 50 Indie, Gardner Garages, is having a new launderette installed at one of their sites by a company called JLA. Operations director Ashton Gardner says: “The machines will be fully self-service with contactless pads on each for the customers to choose the programmes and make payments. They provide the full installation along with ventilation – all we have had to prepare are services to the room.”

Ashton is using the old office space on the site for the launderette: “We are moving our store room to an external building, which has allowed us to move our office internally and create this extra space within the shop.”

He is expecting to increase laundry service sales by between 50-100% compared to the external Revolution unit he used to have as he will have double the available number of drums.

Gander app2

Apps add to offer

When it comes to delivery apps, PBFS has Uber Eats at its Bournemouth shop, which is situated opposite the local hospital and is a very transient site. Sharon says usage of the Uber Eats service ebbs and flows but it’s not really a huge sales driver.

Fraser’s Retail offers the Just Eat and Deliveroo services. Director Nick Fraser says they work well for Subway but far less so for their convenience store products.

Another app – Gander – is working very well at five of Top 50 Indie Sewell on the go’s sites. The app alerts consumers to reduced price food in their local shops.

Sewell sales manager, Sarah Watson, says that when reductions are done each day in store they are loaded onto the Gander app. Once a customer buys a reduced item it then clears off the app.

“The managers check the reduced items are accurate and reflect what is showing on the app as part of their daily store walkabout. The managers and I also have access to ‘Ganderlytics’, where we can see all the reduced items live on the app so if any changes do need to be made, we can do it on there.

“It also tells us information such as sell-through rates of the reduced products sold, mark down losses, shrinkage reports etc. These reports are good to show us, for example, the sell through rates of reductions between stores.

“Gander also allows us to see easily if a lot of something is getting reduced as it stands out clearly on the app and should help managers therefore when placing orders.

“Gander have been good to deal with, coming back to me quickly with regards to any issues or questions I’ve had.”

Sarah says one of the only downsides with the app it that is it still relatively unknown to customers. Sewell has Gander posters up in the stores that are on the app and also puts posts out on its social media to try and get word out.

It seems that if you are looking for extra services to offer your customers there are plenty out there for the taking. Perhaps you might like to help boost the number of forecourts that have photo booths? ME Group’s Photo-Me photobooth business continues to be its largest business area, with more than 3,000 machines in the UK. The company says its photobooths generate a high level of footfall to sites where they are located, driven by the high quality they offer as well as strong demand for photo ID services. Could be worth a look!