Like a knight on a white horse Brian Madderson has charged into view to boost the dwindling reputation of the Petrol Retailers Association and give it some direction and leadership.
He has wasted no time in getting right to the heart of the problems, with the serious concerns over business rates right at the top of the agenda.
Since taking up the reins as chairman on November 2, he has been involved in re-branding the association (part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation). The PRA is now known as RMI Petrol, with a new logo to match. He has dispensed with the association’s magazine in favour of weekly email communication with members; he has been leading the fight with the Valuations Office Association over business rates; and attracted much press and radio interest.
“We’re also re-thinking all of our events for 2010 in terms of the roadshows, and hoping to have some kind of alliance with the Association of Convenience Stores,” he confirms.
“The whole objective is to attract new members. The independents want a voice they didn’t think they were getting before. But we need a much bigger membership that is more representative of our sector.
“There are some big issues coming up – not just business rates, but also the biofuels situation. We need a voice from the independents, otherwise the government of the day could swamp the industry with completely unattainable objectives. Already we are struggling with biofuels in terms of its performance. One can see quite a big ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation developing between the supplier who says his product is perfect and the retailer who says it isn’t.
“There is talk about the government making the industry move more quickly, to bigger biofuel percentages in order for it to meet its global promise of carbon footprint production. This has all sorts of implications.”
Madderson believes it’s all being pushed too quickly, with the suggestion that forecourts will have to offer more grades in order to comply, impacting particularly on rural sites.
“In terms of the independents, there are some key things which I’m passionate about,” stresses Madderson, who is hoping more retailers will join the cause.
“RMI Petrol can offer the smaller independent retailer a menu of services, such as bank deals, and technical expertise. For the larger dealers who’ve probably got good banking arrangements and their own IT people, it’s more about having someone who can speak to the government on behalf of the industry. I think that’s been missing for some time.”
He claims retailers are already beginning to come back to the association, with some hardened cynics impressed by what has been achieved so far. In fact it was the members of the Lakeside group that got him the job in the first place.
“We were at a Lakeside meeting where Rob Foulston, the head of the RMI, was making a presentation about the association and its aims, one of which was to get a heavyweight chairman. He suddenly stopped and said ‘who’s Brian?’. As I looked round the table I saw that the other retailers were all holding up bits of paper that said ‘Brian’s your man’.”
Indeed Madderson has a long and distinguished career – including working on missile guidance systems, and reconnaissance drone system projects; and working for a global family-owned business manufacturing engineering products.
He joined George Hammond – the Dover based company involved in the shipping industry as well as petrol retailing (it has eight sites) – as managing director in 1989. His dealings with the major oil companies – the good, the bad and the incredibly ugly – would make a great book.
“I have a short-term contract with Hammond as a consultant, but didn’t have much idea what I wanted to do,” says Madderson. “I was 65 on November 1, having retired from the Hammond Group on October 31. But then I thought, I am a dealer with 20 years experience at the top level. I’ve spoken at conferences and done TV and radio. So I accepted.
“But of all the challenges I’ve faced
in my career, this has to be the biggest. I’ve got to turn a complacent,
disaffected, lethargic sector into something that is focused, supportive and ready to take action!”</text></Story></Root>