Promotional activity is going to be high on the agenda for motorway operator Welcome Break in the coming months, according to newly appointed director of retail, Nabil Subuh.
The former general manager of Welcome Break’s Oxford service station on the M40, which is home to Europe’s busiest petrol station and the largest motorway forecourt shop in the UK, is now responsible for 35 forecourts and 36 shops across the company’s motorway network.
Subuh explains that the big plan for the group is to simplify the offer in the forecourt shop to make it more ‘shoppable’, and then communicate that. “We’re removing all the junk to create a clear offer ,” he says. “The forecourt shops are totally different from the main shops, so we need to change our strategy to reflect that. In the main shops we give customers plenty of browse time, but in the forecourt shops most of them walk in and aim straight for the till – it’s a single-minded route. So we’re starting to put in impulse units for destination categories such as drinks and news.”
Welcome Break wants to increase the level of convenience on the forecourt: “We’re getting a name for ourselves with our coffee offer, for example,” says Subuh. “We have plans to put in more Coffee Nation machines following our success with the brand.” The offer will be strongly marketed using four-foot high giant coffee cups by the doors to create some theatre on the forecourt. Welcome Break is also focusing on its food-to-go offer. Working with Ginsters – its existing sandwich supplier – the company is trialling giant pasties. “We want to know what we could do to make the range more innovative,” says Subuh.
While there have been some changes in the motorway sector, such as Moto changing its logo to M&S Simply Food, and RoadChef signing up the Spar fascia at its Clacket Lane site on the M25 in Surrey, Subuh says Welcome Break will not be taking such a radical approach.
“The main issue is that some forecourts double as convenience stores for the local community, but we are really aimed at people on the motorways – we shouldn’t be adding to the traffic,” says Subuh, whose experience as general manager at Welcome Break’s Oxford site has been invaluable to him in his new role. “I have an understanding of the different needs of motorway customers,” he says. “A particular challenge is keeping up with seasonal changes. I also understand the complexities of the industry and the safety aspects of running a site,” he says. “Fuel prices are up and down like a yo-yo and that’s not easy for the site managers. It’s a challenge to get the ullage right, as it is for any forecourt manager.”
Truckers are another consideration, as the volume of HGV traffic is growing – hence a trial of the RoadPro range of trucking accessories for professional drivers is underway.
“But the company’s main focus is on developing a simple offer that people will start to identify with,” stresses Subuh. “We aim to do what we do – well.”