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Investing with Gusto

The opening in March of the Dover-based Hammond Group's stunning Three Elm site at Tonbridge in Kent, was another step in an ongoing programme of development and investment for the business. The former rather outdated site closed in August and was replaced with a £2m shiny new BP-branded forecourt and two-storey shop featuring 280sqm of sales space on the ground floor, with offices, kitchen and meeting room upstairs built around a glass atrium giving a fantastic view down to the shop. The site also features an in-store bakery, Hammond's own food-to-go brand Café Gusto with a serve-over offer including hand-made Italian products and Lavazza coffee.

Journey to the top of the indies

It came as a surprise to many when early in 2018 the Motor Fuel Group announced its acquisition of MRH at the time the UK's biggest independent fuel retailing group. But for the management team at MFG it was the realisation of yet another great opportunity on a journey which began in 2011.

Signing up to growth

Top 50 Indie Refuel & Go has increased like-for-like sales by 10% since it relaunched its eight forecourt sites in London and the Home Counties under the Spar fascia.

Pioneering site leads the field

When the Forecourt Trader of the Year award winner was finally announced as the A26 Tannaghmore site in Northern Ireland, the stage at the glamorous Hilton on Park Lane erupted in applause and ticker tape, and everyone on the Maxol table fell off their seats.

Local attraction

On a swelteringly hot day at the end of June, the inhabitants of Harleston, Norfolk, were presented with a great community asset in the form of a fabulous new forecourt and convenience store, developed by Lawrences Garages (London) Ltd.

Neighbourhood service

A chance meeting at the Top 50 Indies dinner in 2017 with a Phillips 66 executive led to Tariq Majid, director at Majid & Sons, to agree a new supply deal with the Jet brand.

Raising the roof at Barton Mills

It's been a long time closed, but last month the MRH team proudly opened the doors on its glorious 6mlpa site at Barton Mills, on the busy Fiveways Roundabout on the A11 near Bury St Edmunds. It is the last major development currently planned following MFG's acqusition of the company which will be completed this month and bears all the hallmarks of the type of modern and stylish developments and upgrades that have taken place throughout the MRH network under CEO Karen Dickens.

Dynamic retailers invest in growth

Just as the ink was drying on this year's Top 50 Indies report, the sector demonstrated how dynamic it is when the number two ranked MFG agreed a deal to take over its bigger rival MRH, which was occupying the number one spot. The deal will create a company with more than 900 sites, more than twice the size of its nearest UK rival EG Group, which has 375 sites in the UK but can also point to a much larger estate in Europe.

Pastures green

If you want to be inspired about the potential of forecourt retailing, you could do no worse than a visit to our friends in the Republic of Ireland, where Forecourt Trader was recently taken on a whistle-stop tour of some of the brightest and best sites around Dublin.

Back in the game

Former Top 50 Indie Hockenhull Garages (HGS) has opened a new petrol station and convenience store in South Wigston, Leicester. It is the first forecourt development for the company's founder and chairman, Peter Hockenhull, since he came out of retirement at the age of 76 to assist in running the business with his son Joe, the managing director.

Brothers in Euro vision

While many forecourt retailers fuss over the high prices of sites in the UK thwarting growth, Blackburn-based Euro Garages continued its march into Europe with the acquisition of ExxonMobil's retail assets in Germany last month. In one fell swoop Euro Garages which operates under its parent, EG Group Ltd, as far as its European operations is concerned added a further 1,000 sites to its ever-expanding network, which now stands close to an eye-watering 3,500 sites across Europe, employing a staggering 12,500 people.

Applegreen - winner by design

M1 Lisburn was designed to be bigger and better than anything Applegreen had done before, and so it proved. At the Forecourt Trader awards ceremony in September, the company walked off with the biggest prize the Forecourt Trader of the Year trophy. "We were absolutely delighted to win this award we're thrilled," says John Diviney, who took over as Applegreen's UK managing director in December 2016, having worked in most departments in his four and a half years with the company, including finance, warehouse, food, marketing and loyalty.

A merry dance

You know standards are high at the forecourt at Toomey's Southend Motor Village when you arrive and spot the manager Mark Dance straightening a sign on one of the petrol pumps. It's not so much that he's adjusting the sign, more that he's wearing suit trousers, a shirt, tie and waistcoat. But, once you visit the forecourt and the accompanying Spar store, you realise his outfit reflects the business' incredibly high standards. Mark runs the site for owner, Michael Toomey, who has a second forecourt at Basildon. The Southend site, a busy transient one on Cherry Orchard Way a connecting road from Southend to Rochford opened in October 2008, with a 1,683sq m canopy, which at the time was the largest on any petrol filling station in Europe.

Bonds that drive profit

With eight Texaco branded service stations and convenience stores, 14 workshops, a major wholesale tyre business, a rental property business, emus, deer, cattle and around 800 new-born lambs to contend with, it's not surprising that Richard Whittemore is up before dawn most mornings. While Richard's main focus is his automotive businesses, he represents many modern forecourt retailers who have diversified their business portfolio to ensure success, with their forecourts being just one string to their business bow.

Rising to the challenge

There have been many petrol filling station knock-down-rebuilds which have transformed the existing site into a modern-day forecourt operation, but perhaps few have required quite such vision and creativity to maximise the opportunity, as the owner of Abbeyside Services in Selby, Nick Baker. He has built an imposing two-storey modern forecourt operation with a total of 4,000sq ft of floor space, on a tiny, crazily-shaped plot of less than half an acre a triangulated piece of land which tapers sharply at the back to a width of a couple of feet. Where there was once a small and dated forecourt with a tiny Mace shop, now stands a large glass-fronted building, high and proud on one of the main roads into the centre of town, attracting both commuters and local residents to its mesmerising array of offers.

10 years in the making

Last month East Yorkshire-based Jos Richardson & Son proudly marked 125 years in business, with a celebratory lunch with family, friends and business associates. It was a great occasion and coincided with the official launch of the company's new £4m service station and truck- stop development on Junction 36 of the M62 at Goole a project which has taken 10 years to complete but is already paying dividends, according to managing director Joe Richardson, who runs the business with his sister Jane, and co-directors Karen Marshall and Graham Andrews: "Our HGV diesel sales have doubled, the petrol station is 30% up on previous retail sales and rising," he says. "The shop is already at £30k, and rising. The Subway is at £7k a week. So we're very happy."

Driving retail

As the first of the MRH/Co-op trial sites opened last month in High Road, Eastcote, west of London it was a great moment for MRH chief executive Karen Dickens and her team, who are on a focused mission to upgrade and grow the company's network. The opening was a very jolly occasion, with children from a local primary school doing the honours, on an open day attended by local dignitaries and executives from MRH and Lone Star, the US private equity firm that bought MRH in January 2016.

Blood, sweat and hopefully no tears

Regular readers of Forecourt Trader will be familiar with the long-running saga of Tollgate Services, a Shell site just off the A2 at Gravesend. They will also therefore be familiar with the determination of its owner, Simon Privett, to defy plans by BP to build a service station and drive-thru McDonald's just 50m from his site, which could ruin his business.

King of the road

Aas the news broke that Rontec was extending its partnership with Morrisons with plans for a further 40 Morrisons Daily convenience stores across its network, I was in the hot seat literally in the back of the car with Rontec's legendary chairman and chief executive, Gerald Ronson, on one of his equally legendary regular site tours. "It's a major development programme between two companies who have a similar 'can do' culture," he says. "We've done 10 Morrisons sites, and the figures so far are encouraging. We're doing another batch of 40, but our network has the potential for at least another 50 from a locational and size point of view potentially we could have up to 100 sites under the Morrisons banner by the end of the year. It should give us another £50-70m turnover. It's keeping the team busy! But it's where I believe this industry is going."

Duo with a wealth of retail experience

In 1974 Dermot Dowling had already ignited a passion for petrol retailing when he set up Petrocell Holdings. Forty-two years later and now into his 70s, Dermot no longer handles the day-to-day running of the company but, as chairman, remains an active force within the business. The engine of Petrocell Holdings is now managing director, Alan Spackman; plus financial director Elaine Reed; and Dermot's two sons, John and Pat.

Forging ahead

It's been a busy start to the year for PRA chairman Brian Madderson, as he responds to the many media requests that follow any news relevant to the forecourt retailing sector. In this case, it was the usual flood of calls to appear on national TV and radio to comment on the rising fuel prices.

First-class forecourts

Our round-up of the Forecourt Trader of the Year 2016 winners moves on to the Midlands and Northern England

Making a splash

For the past few years, car washing has been gradually side-lined by the growth of the forecourt convenience retailing business as well as the competition from hand car wash operators.

Raw talent

Joan and Barry Raw make a very talented brother and sister team. Together they have developed a network of four successful forecourt operations which collectively sell 24 million litres of fuel a year.

Cashing in on chips

Walk through the main doors of Syston Service Station and you're faced with a tough choice: turn left into the smart Spar convenience store or right into the ultra modern Mackays fish and chip shop. Luckily for owners James Kemp and Simon Mackay, most customers visit both parts of the business as they complement each other rather nicely. Part of the Carsley Group, the men along with their business partner Charles Masters took over the site back in February 2015. Then it was a Mace store, with the 3,000sq ft space decked out in Mace's corporate blue. They immediately switched to Spar and put in a stud wall, which took the sales space down to 2,000sq ft. They then used the other 1,000sq ft as a stockroom while they considered their options.

Making a marque

Sunshine, blue skies and country roads there couldn't be a better build-up to seeing the new Murco branding. Driving round a bend on the A30 in Stour, Dorset, and there it is, standing out in all its freshly-installed, star-spangled glory, attracting the attention of motorists surprised by the colourful transformation.

Being served

Rachael Hockmeyer runs a mighty fine petrol station for someone who drives an electric car! Yes, she is teased particularly at Texaco meetings but she is more than comfortable squaring the financial and environmental benefits of her car, with running an excellent forecourt convenience store and workshop business, serving the needs of her hungry and carbon fuel-dependent motoring customers.

Cheeky chappie

The entrepreneurial spirit is certainly alive and kicking on UK forecourts nationwide, and none more so than in the north east in Darlington to be precise where independent retailer Nick Baker of NJB Services has been working hard launching his own brand of coffee.

Fortunes on the Rise

Suci and Aruna Sucindran own and operate Yari Petroleum Ltd, known as Bishops Rise Service Station, a 3.9mlpa modern freehold site situated in Hatfield, Herts. It recently rebranded to Gulf, the first of a number of important steps the couple are taking as they look to the future. Formerly a flagship forecourt for Harvest, the move to Gulf and supplier Certas Energy has resulted in unleaded and diesel volumes both rising by around 1,000 litres a day. The site now benefits from a more competitive pricing structure and a renowned fuel brand.

All Hans on deck at Ravensthorpe

Ravensthorpe Service Station recently distinguished itself by being recognised as the 500th Gulf-branded forecourt. But it is also making a name for itself in its local town of Dewsbury, having been transformed into a leading edge forecourt and convenience operation following a four-month knock-down-rebuild.

Redditch rejuvenated

The sale of Brooklyn Motors, Redditch, in 2009 signalled a crossroads in the career of Jackie Braziel. She was the forecourt manager but unfortunately the new owners, Bristol Street Motors, had no plans for a filling station.

Passing the baton

Susie Hawkins always knew she was going to join the family business Top 50 Indie the Simon Smith Group but she joined sooner than she'd intended.

Winning legacy

Winning Forecourt Trader of the Year was amazing," says Jay Gohil, managing director of the Gohil family business, centred in Cosford, Albrighton, Wolverhampton. "It opened a lot of doors for us. The fact we won the award meant people like the Lakeside Group asked us to join. That changed a lot of what we did Subway came along which enabled us to open more stores. Where we are today, (a growing business employing 80 staff, with the original two forecourts, plus one standalone Subway, two Spar stores, and another in development) can be tracked back to when we won the award."

Ups and downs

The past year has been a high-profile one for fuel, with volatile petrol and diesel prices often making headlines, including claims in January that average petrol prices might even fall below £1 per litre.

Allied for success

In 1988, Peter and Pat Bellini bought a piece of land and set about building a forecourt and shop. Today, Bellini's of Ilkeston is a flag bearer for small businesses; a multi award- winning site (the couple won Forecourt Trader of the Year in 2004) and the last remaining independently owned forecourt in a town dominated by hypers.

Making a difference

Slowly but surely, and using a tried and trusted formula, Peregrine Retail is making its mark in the South West of England.

Sandringham gem

HKS, the Leicester-based Top 50 Indie, last month celebrated its 31st birthday with the launch of its flagship site, HKS Sandringham, its biggest development to date. It was a busy month for the successful Thakrar family business, with confirmation that it has acquired seven new sites from Shell, to add to its 27-strong network.

Life's a Breeze for Harvest

Last month Harvest Energy launched a new sub-brand Breeze on a redeveloped site at Holmer Green, near High Wycombe. The company describes it as the first 'virtually attended' filling station in the UK. The 'attendants' are 100 miles away in Peterborough, remotely operating the forecourt as if they were on site, through a state-of-the-art system of CCTV links, Scheidt & Bachmann fuel pumps and Clou CRID card payment technology.

Forecourt sites win two Londis awards

Two forecourts picked up awards when Londis announced the winners of its annual Store of the Year awards.

Sewell on the go opens new lorry park

The first purpose-built lorry park on the A63 Westbound, at Hull, has been opened by Sewell on the go, which is ranked 23rd in Forecourt Trader's Top 50 Indies.

Smiles all round

It's happy days for Mike Cheskin's two Gulf-branded Gloucestershire forecourts as volumes and profits have increased by over 25% and his daughter Ruth demonstrates that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

The forecourt site saga

As I arrive at Exelby Services' new £6.5m filling station and truck stop just off the A1M at Leeming Bar, I am greeted with a broad smile the type of smile that reflects a great sense of pride and relief that this state-of-the art facility is finally up and running and proving its worth.

Boosting value

You don't expect to see pallets loaded with bulk packs of products in a forecourt convenience store, but that's just what you get at Bush Service Station, one of Top 50 Indie Falcon Sharma's 12-strong network of forecourts in and around the Midlands.

A growing force

The total number of sites run by the Top 50 Indies has surged by more than 300 compared with last year, boosted by MFG's acquisition of more than 220 sites from Murco, and the continuing sell-off of sites by other oil companies.

Full of beans

It's going to be an especially busy year for Joe Richardson, managing director of Goole-based Jos Richardson & Son, a family-owned business with five forecourts in the north east.

Provident pastures

Last month the Top 50 Indie Dewsbury-based Brookfield Group, held a grand celebration to mark the opening of its new £2m forecourt development in Pocklington, East Yorkshire. The launch of the new-to-industry site was marked by a two-day event which included a visit from a Ferrari Formula 1 racing car, giveaways and a wide range of in-store offers.

Building business

It's a busy time for the Simon Smith Group with the imminent knockdown rebuild of two of its seven filling stations. The new sites include shops with a combined floor space of 5,000sq ft, which will add impetus to the firm's retailing business. Plans are also in place to introduce a Post Office to one, further strengthening community interaction.

Sites for sore eyes

Life in the fast lane, for many of us is literally just that charging down the outside lane of the motorway in a rush to get to the next appointment, whether that is work or play. But wouldn't it be nice to get off once in a while and take that frown off your face? If you do, there's no better place to do it than the relative oasis of calm that has been created by Westmorland Ltd and its 'family' of sites on the M6 in Cumbria Tebay Services, northbound and southbound; Junction 38 Services; the Rheghed Centre; and more recently the amazing new development on the M5 northbound Gloucester Services.

Social climbers

If you're not posting or tweeting, uploading or linking you could be missing a promotional trick. That's because more and more forecourt retailers are using the likes of Facebook and Twitter to boost their profile in their community and promote what they do.

Sound vision

Falcon Garage is an amazing new development that displays great vision. And so will its customers when plans to open an opticians on the forecourt reach fruition later on this year. The site, in Tadley, Hampshire, is owned by Suresh Patel and his wife Usha, and has been totally transformed during the 27 years since they bought it as a traditional-style Texaco-branded forecourt with workshops and a tiny shop.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 10 June 2019
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East135.3166.90140.93130.00
East Midlands134.59140.57129.69
London134.50141.91130.33
North East133.19142.40129.15
North West134.1363.90139.73129.13
Northern Ireland131.34135.32128.05
Scotland134.25140.07129.86
South East135.2562.40141.74130.52
South West134.5167.90140.57129.57
Wales133.6764.90137.30128.83
West Midlands134.34140.64129.70
Yorkshire & Humber133.72140.40129.24

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