Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community
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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

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 30 March 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East118.96132.05114.52
East Midlands119.01131.46114.46
London119.6659.90134.71116.14
North East116.33131.57110.86
North West117.71131.66113.21
Northern Ireland113.94120.90108.13
Scotland117.18131.78111.83
South East120.0368.90132.46116.19
South West118.30130.34113.27
Wales116.8157.90127.95111.17
West Midlands118.8857.90135.85114.78
Yorkshire & Humber117.69131.84113.09

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