Success does not happen overnight, and the Rashid family has worked hard for many years to build a business that does it proud. Shortly before Christmas saw the official opening of the family’s superb, newly developed site in Frilford, Oxfordshire. It has all the attributes of a modern, well-equipped site, and plays a key role in the life of the local community, as well as providing a good service to its growing transient audience.
“We have put Frilford on the map,” says Karim, who runs the business with his wife Maggie. More latterly their children Karl, Sarah and Clare have all played their part. Karim has been in fuel retailing for many years, but mainly in franchised operations until seven years ago, when he bought the two-acre Frilford site. It was an old traditional Jet-branded service station with single dispenser pump units, a very small village shop – selling a basic range – and a rather large field.
“I saw it had potential,” says Karim. “There is nothing else in this area – that’s what attracted us to the site in the first place. It’s awkward to go across town.”
Once on the site, the Jet signage was eventually changed for BP, “because that was the best deal at the time”, according to Karim.
“Then two and half years ago we went with Shell because the company wanted a presence in our area, and when the reps saw our plans they made a better offer than BP. I’m happy with Shell, the branding is very strong. We’re not price sensitive – but we have to be fair. We are the last site before the A34, but we don’t abuse that because we want to develop the business in the long-term”.
Daughter Sarah – who is currently studying business at university – says when the family first took over the business shop turnover was about £160,000 a year. “But after five years it was £380,000 – a 50% increase in shop turnover in five years,” she says. “Fuel volume was 25,000 litres a week, and that increased 40% over the same period. When we started to see those increases we could see what the potential was. We serve three local villages – Marcham, Frilford and Garford. There’s also a lot of passing trade, as we’re close to the A34, A420, and the A415, so there’s a lot of transient traffic. It’s also a very wealthy area. Our main next store is Tesco in Abingdon.”
Seeing the potential, however, was initially not quite so easy as realising it. For despite the business being on a two-acre site, only one quarter of it was allowed to be developed, acccording to the man behind the reconstruction of the site, Alec Cornish-Testrail, a former regional surveyor and construction engineer for Esso, who set up his own company – ACT Design – in 1990, and has since been involved in many forecourt development projects.
“We had huge problems getting planning permission. It took eight months to get it – there was only one objection, but the plans were altered many times,” he says.
“The next most important issue was getting a pump sewer. Without it the Environment Agency won’t allow you to put in a car wash. You have to be connected to mains drainage. So we put in a pump sewer costing £25,000, which pumps sewage 200ft to the main Wantage Road. We’ve also got complete generator back-up – costing £12,000. You need that in the countryside because there are lots of overhead powerlines which are more prone to failure – poles falling down and trees falling against the line etc.”
The redevelopment was done in two phases. The first part cost £560,000 and included the main building – a conventional pitch-roof construction which included a 1600sq m shop – the pump sewer, generator and temporary surfacing.
The second stage was the rebuilding of the forecourt and cost £230,000. It included new canopy, tanks, all-new plastic pipework, new pump islands, and pumps modified from two to three grades. “The site has eight-car access, – one of the most efficient access ratings you can get – so motorists can always get to the pump,” stresses Cornish-Testrail.
“We were able to keep the site open while the work was going on,” says Sarah. “We only closed the site for two days, but the project took six months in total. There was a four-month gap between the first and second phase. The forecourt has been extended to double the size; and now we have a car wash where the old shop once stood. We’re also getting a jet wash. Fuel volumes rose to 80,000 litres a week in between developments. Since the new forecourt opened volumes have increased 18%. Our next target is 100,000 litres a week.”
The shop is pristine and features an extensive grocery range, fresh fruit and vegetables, a bake-off and off licence.
“We opted for Budgens rather than Spar because when we looked around at other forecourts we thought the format looked more professional and inviting,” says Karim. “We’re extremely happy with Budgens. It is very professional, friendly and has helped us a lot. It paid 100% wastage on our grocery and chilled and all fresh goods for the first month, and 50% on the second month. That allowed us to identify the range. Because it’s a new store we tried everything once to get an idea of what people wanted. For example steaks didn’t go well, but chicken, mince and pork did.
“Customers say our site is a life-saver,” says Karim, proudly. “They no longer need to drive to Abingdon, which would take more than half an hour – depending on the time of day – as opposed to five minutes popping up the road to us. The success of the site has proved there was a need.”