For Oonagh Gilfillan, small really is beautiful. As general manager at Power Petroleum she deals with 150 fuel retailers, most of whom are sole operators. And according to Gilfillan, that’s what makes the job so enjoyable.
She says: "Retailers ask us what they need to have if we supply them with fuel. But we turn it around and say ’Well, what do you want to have?’ It’s all about flexibility, and a lot of retailers seem to find that very refreshing. We’re really lucky with the sites we have the retailers are usually lovely, a pleasure to deal with. They just seem pleased to see someone who will offer them some help. We’re pretty upfront and honest, if we can’t offer you what you need then we’ll tell you. If it doesn’t fit we won’t do it."
Power is an equity division of Total UK and operates separately to the French oil company. It is a smaller operation tailored for lower-volume retailers most are under the 2mlpa mark. But Gilfillan says Power’s forecourt operators can really benefit from the Total connection.
She explains: "We give a really personal service, we’re always on the end of the phone and my team of four area business managers spend a lot of time on the road visiting sites. If you want to sign up to the full Power package including branding, uniforms, interest-free loans, pump maintenance, marketing advice and health and safety audits that’s fine. But if you just want to buy fuel from us on the spot market and take nothing else, then that’s also fine.
"We can offer the Total card and for a second tier brand to be able to do that is great it offers good rates and it’s a very good product. And retailers can of course also sell Total lubes. Being part of Total we have our own refinery so we should be in a better position than some when it comes to supply.
"So we’ve got all the support of a big company while being small and personal at the same time."
Gilfillan, who has worked for Total for 11 years but moved to Power 18 months ago, says the system is working well. About 20 new retailers have joined the Power stable so far this year, with some coming across from Total. Of the 150 retailers, about 120 are Power-branded sites and another 20 choose to buy on the spot market, with the remainder having a contract with the Cheltenham-based company but not using the brand.
Gilfillan comments: "We have had a phenomenal year so far and I think things can only get better. I’ve got a fantastic team, we’ve re-signed a lot of retailers who have come out of their contracts as well as signing plenty of new contracts. But the spot market is also popular. Some people don’t seem to want to sign contracts at the moment, maybe because they are concerned about the future of their business and don’t want to be tied in. We’re happy to supply them."
Gilfillan is keen to raise the profile of Power and points out that there is a lot more investment going into the brand in addition to a solid marketing plan. Power had its first stand at the International Forecourt & Fuel Equipment Show (IFFE) this year, with other initiatives including sending out mail shots to sites and sending some of its retailers on days out to Silverstone and other sports events.
Another recent change means that all Power’s haulage business is now being brought in-house a process expected to be completed in the next few months. This gives Power access to a much bigger fleet that can deliver round the clock.
All health and safety will fall under Total’s stringent regulations while every Power-supplied site has been assessed to determine factors such as the best delivery times, size of vehicle, and even details such as if it is safe to reverse into or out of a site.
Gilfillan says this is a very positive change, adding: "It’s a real step forward, especially in terms of health and safety. Each site knows it is safe to take a delivery." In addition, the scheduling team at Total HQ in Watford can now handle delivery enquiries from Power retailers as part of a 24/7 service.
There is an online ordering facility but most Power retailers prefer to do things the old fashioned way. All communication to sites which are in England and Wales as the brand is leased from BP and the lease only includes these parts of the UK therefore goes out in the post.
And finally, back to those issues of openess and honesty. Gilfillan explains: "There’s nothing hidden in our contracts, they don’t lock retailers into volume. I’m a very upfront person and I believe in people making informed choices.
"I want to give retailers all the information and then they can make their own choices. If someone finds a better deal than ours, we will talk to them about it, but if we can’t beat it we will write to them and wish them all the best."