The industry has probably had one of its toughest years ever, with many oil companies battening down the hatches, and keeping a close eye on expenditure. But at Gulf Retail, according to its director Keith Jewers, while the company continues to approach business with its usual prudence and caution, it has not curtailed investment and is continuing to develop new products so that its dealers can benefit.

Hence it has recently completed a deal with global card account company ReD to manage all aspects of the Gulf account card at significantly improved rates for dealers; it is also offering dealers the opportunity to operate the ReD Liquid fuel card.

"The new card deal represents an opportunity for our dealers to make more money,"stresses Jewers. "To start with there is a big reduction in the rates our retailers will pay - down from 2% to 1.5%, which will impact directly on their bottom line. Every percentage we’ve gained on the cards we’ve passed on to the dealers. They get the pump price less 1.35% merchant service charge, which is significant. Many fuel cards only pay a nominal 1p per litre to their dealers.

"The agreement with ReD means significant savings for dealers and encourages them to go out and attract local business. It will also encourage those that have their own accounts to transfer them to Gulf as well. We are finding that is particularly appealing to retailers - it’s one of the key things we see people pick up on, when we secure new business. It makes us more competitive with other oil companies."

The new card scheme was launched at the beginning of November, in what Jewers describes as a ’seamless’ transition; and he anticipates the card being accepted at all Gulf sites.

"ReD operating our account card is a significant gain," stresses Jewers. "So is the fact we have agreed to accept the ReD Liquid card - an Arval Allstar card equivalent - which we are offering to all our filling stations. Our account card tends to be for more local trade, while the Liquid card is widely accepted across all brands. It will be another income generator to the forecourt. We have also come to an arrangement with Arval for significantly enhanced commercial terms on its Allstar card for Gulf retailers that puts it in line with other major oil companies. This could mean a saving of many hundreds of pounds a month for dealers."

Another development - although not likely to impact on dealers immediately - is the launch of a new high-performance, high-tech lubricant range for use in motorsport. There will be six ester-based oil products in the Gulf competition range, which will link very nicely with the company’s involvement in motor racing with Aston Martin. While initially the new range will help in raising the profile of the Gulf brand, particularly its racing pedigree, Jewers says the subsequent technical developments will determine the formulation of the next generation of Gulf forecourt lubricants.

Gulf is also about to enter the aviation market, with initial activities concentrated on the supply of smaller regional airports.

"Our strategy is to continue to develop the Gulf brand. We want to help our existing dealers and encourage new dealers to join us," says Jewers, as he continues to extol the calibre of Gulf’s field staff, who average around 15 years’ retail experience.

"In the main, oil company representatives are thin on the ground, and as such they are unable to provide the support as dealers would want.

"However we make it our business to get around our sites, with experienced people who go beyond the bounds of what is considered normal duty in the oil industry to look after their customer - because customers are difficult to win and easily lost.

"We won’t always get it right, but our aim is to leave no stone unturned in our support of dealers as best we can, and in particular help them, with the services that we provide, sustain good businesses."