Hear how forecourt operators are taking matters into their own hands to beat crime, in Forecourt Trader webinar

Register now to watch Forecourt Trader’s webinar on ‘Breaking the back of rising retail crime’, on Wednesday May 22 at 11am.

With little support from police, forecourt operators are taking matters into their own hands by introducing facial recognition technology, security guards and safes for overnight storage. Our panellists – operators David Charman, and Johnny Srikrishna, Pricewatch Group general manager Tom Buckley, and the Petrol Retailers Associations’ chief executive Gordon Balmer - share their insights into how the industry can combat what has become an endemic problem for most people working in it.

Meet the speakers:

Tom Buckley, general manager – Pricewatch Group 

Tom Buckley (1) (1)

Tom Buckley has worked at Pricewatch Group for two years as its general manager, responsible for the day-to-day running of the family-owned business. 

He says that crime is “massive” for the Sussex chain of 10 forecourts, with all of its sites having “a story to tell”. 

Police have been slow to take action, recently ignoring CCTV footage of a getaway vehicle’s registration number and also more than 20 requests for support at one site with a retail theft problem. As a result, the business has been trialling the short-term use of a security guard. 

Prior to joining Pricewatch, Tom worked in the automotive industry running prestige car dealerships, most recently for Mercedes-Benz. 

David Charman, managing director at Parkfoot Garage  

David Charman (1)

David Charman, managing director of third generation forecourt business Parkfoot Garage, says that shop theft and violence and anger towards staff is the big area of focus for him to combat when it comes to crime.  

Despite the business being “in the nicest part of Kent” on the A20 in West Malling, it was subjected to an armed robbery some years ago, and David says that it is currently losing between £30,000 to £40,000 per year from shoplifting. To protect his most important asset – his staff – he is planning to introduce facial recognition technology in the shop this year.  

He says that increased fuel prices saw drive-offs and no means of payment increase, and that people are becoming cleverer in the way that they avoid paying for fuel. But he says his efforts need to go into finding ways to protect his team, which were deeply affected by the armed robbery.  

Johnny Srikrishna, director at SJS Group  

Johnny Srikrishna (1)

Johnny Srikrishna has worked at his family’s six-strong forecourt business in the south-east for seven years after a spell in banking.  

The SJS Group, which was founded by his father in the early 1970s, loses around £16,000 a year in drive-offs, despite using a high-tech security system with vehicle registration capability and CCTV. Tobacco theft is the other major problem area for the business which has invested in Navarra tobacco gantries and safes for overnight storage.  

He says that it is a post code lottery on how police respond to crime at the various locations, and that sometimes forecourt operators can be let down by staff not following security protocol. 

Gordon Balmer, executive director at the Petrol Retailers Association  

Gordon Balmer (1)

Gordon Balmer has worked for over 40 years in the fuel industry, 30 with BP and the last 10 with the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), where he has been executive director for the past three years.   

Gordon has been lobbying to make the process of reporting drive-offs quicker and more effective by giving the forecourt industry access electronically to the DVLA vehicle database, instead of relying on the current paper-based system. 

The PRA is working with government and the media to highlight the seriousness of crime in the sector, with forecourt operators, he says, losing in excess of £100 million per year in drive-offs and no means of payment incidents. The association also works with the industry to promote self-help initiatives such as ShopKind and Project Pegasus. 

Juliet Morrison, Forecourt Trader editor 

Juliet Morrison 1

Juliet joined Forecourt Trader as editor last December. She has been a journalist in the independent retail sector for 30 years, reporting on, among other things, the prevalence of and harm that crime can cause businesses. 

Since joining the William Reed brand she has been monitoring the impact of crime on forecourt operators, and would like to hear from those who are tackling this growing problem which is now endemic in the industry.