The return of the International Forecourt and Fuel Equipment (IFFE) exhibition as an annual event was heralded a success, as thousands of visitors went to the NEC, Birmingham for the four-day event. The queues were already forming when Susie Hawkins, Forecourt Trader of the Year 2005, opened IFFE 2006 on the Sunday morning. Daren Rose-Neale, IFFE sales manager, said: "The show was very busy, and visitors had the opportunity to source new products and business solutions from a vast array of major manufacturers. The initial feedback from visitors and exhibitors is very encouraging."
Running alongside the Convenience Retailing Show (CRS), and also the biennial Food & Drink Expo, retailers had a chance to see what was going on in all sectors of the business. The date has already been set for IFFE 2007, which promises to be bigger and better. It will take place from March 6-8, running alongside CRS 2007, again at the NEC in Birmingham.
ON SHOW AT IFFE
- Torex Retail was showcasing its Forecourt Services offer which can now provide comprehensive installation and support services covering every aspect of the forecourt operation, from EPoS installation, pumps, tanks and pipework, to complete site redevelopment. The company can also provide service contracts and maintenance checks and has just signed a three-year contract with Somerfield to support forecourt and technology equipment across 125 sites.
- Pay-at-pump solutions were big news this year, with several companies showcasing equipment. VBI was promoting its Illumina 3000 Outdoor Payment Terminal (OPT). The EMV-compliant bank card processing service provided by YESpay allows customers to pre-authorise a payment card, fuel up at their chosen pump and then receive a receipt - fuel cannot be dispensed without the authorisation of a payment card.
- Tokheim was also showing an outdoor payment terminal, the Crypto VGA. The terminal has a colour touch-screen which guides customers through the transaction.
- Trintech was showing an unattended payment solution, developed in partnership with Dresser Wayne and HTEC was promoting its Aquila Chip & PIN-enabled OPT.
- Wilcomatic was attracting visitors with its Christ Primus C150 Racer car wash. The Christ-Racer package is said to reduce total wash time by up to 40% - the programme can be finished in as little as 2.5 minutes.
- Atlantis International was promoting the new CB1 machine from Karcher, as well as the Revolution jet wash and BudJet - a new low-price jetwash. There was also information about the PSD-Codax, a self-service card payment solution for the wash bay, which uses the latest secure Chip & PIN technology.
- Stream Car Care, recently appointed as sole UK distributor for Italian car wash company Autoequip, was using the event to re-introduce the brand to the UK.
- At the Liquid Cargo Management stand, Tanknology’s Petroscope service was being demonstrated. It is a robotic camera which can be used to inspect the interior of underground storage tanks. It avoids dangerous manned entry or costly excavation work and provides a permanent video documentation of a tank’s condition.
- Big Oil Associates was demonstrating Big Media, its in-store marketing and media service. This provides a TV-quality mix of ’info-tainment’ on LCD screens strategically placed above the queuing zone. As well as carrying national and local advertising, the medium can be used to promote specific products and services and support in-store promotions. Retailers take a share of the advertising revenue.
- Safety Fill showed off its fuel nozzles, designed for safe refuelling without spillage and waste. Originally designed for 5ltr plastic cans, the new nozzles fit standard types of petrol cans. They are resistant to chemicals and are anti-static.
On SHOW AT CRS
- The ACS was promoting two new training initiatives. The Retail Academy’s online training system, Retail Detail, is an interactive business support programme offering a selection of tools, resources and information to help develop skills. An additional module for forecourt management is in the pipeline. The ACS is also piloting a simulation training programme in which teams compete against one another in running a virtual multi-site forecourt business. A traditional c-store version has just been tested, with the forecourt version due to run in July.
- A number of new products were on display at the busy Bake & Bite-branded Country Choice stand. The Bake & Bite Hot Box allows retailers to provide a selection of takeaway hot meals, including sauces and gravy, in a leak-proof box. Meanwhile the ’Shop within a Shop’ concept provides retailers with a complete Bake & Bite branded foodservice solution.
- At the Ginsters stand, marketing controller Larry File was showing off the company’s new interactive consumer website - www.ginsters.co.uk. Also being demonstrated was a CACI geographical data analysis system where you type in the postcode of a Ginsters outlet and the computer programme will tell you the immediate geographical catchment area for that store and generate a customer profile.
- The Sony SnapLab digital photofinishing unit was popular with forecourt retailers. The professional-quality standalone printer is small and light enough to fit on a shop counter.
- Procter & Gamble used CRS to launch its latest Pringles promotion. The Pringles Dream Team 2006 on-pack offer gives consumers the chance to meet and play football with the 11 members of its football team who include Steven Gerrard, Freddie Ljunberg and Roberto Carlos. Other prizes include TVs and football shirts.
- World Cup fever was evident on the Maccess stand, which featured St George sunshades and flags, plus a range of England team air fresheners.
- Eatwell was showing off its new Feasters microwaveable baguettes, with steak & onion, ham & cheese and chicken tikka fillings.
- On the Cuisine de France stand the growth in popularity of speciality breads was addressed by the introduction of onion, tomato and olive-flavoured batons. And for the World Cup there were new Sports rolls which Cuisine de France reckoned would be great for football fans sitting watching the games in front of the TV.
- The AVS Group was showing off its new Inside Out display stand of seasonal lines including picnic rugs, cool bags and travel rugs.
- AA Publishing had a new range of car essentials including a bulb and fuse kit which retails at £4.99, and a First Aid travel kit, rrp £2.99.
- New on the Princes stand was the Quick Eat range of microwaveable meals. This comprises five recipes including chicken tikka masala with rice; chicken in mushroom sauce with pasta; beef bolognese with pasta; and green Thai chicken curry with rice.
Employment law, responsible retailing and crime prevention were the topics for the new C-Store Live! feature.
The main talking point on employment law was the forthcoming Age Discrimination Act and in particular the changes surrounding retirement.
With reponsible retailing, age restricted sales were in the spotlight and in particular the adoption of the Challenge 21 policy where, in relation to alcohol sales, anyone who looks under the age of 21 is asked for proof of age ID.
The message from the crime session was that retailers needed to work more with their local police but, at the same time, the police needed to make themselves more available.
IDEAS TO TAKE AWAY
The Ideas to Take Away 2006 film, which played on a loop throughout the show, featured five forecourt retailers. Forecourt Trader of the Year 2005, Susie Hawkins, shared her idea of giving new local residents welcome packs on the day they moved into their new homes. Mike Turner of Cuff Miller in Littlehampton spoke about having a happy hour on fuel once a day, while Tim Burns of Worcester talked about joining Spar. Robert Malek from Barnstaple described how he turned some dead space in store into an eye-catching display feature and David Heenan of Northern Ireland shared his formula for a successful food- to-go counter - employing his own chef.
FORECOURT LIVE! COMES ALIVE AT IFFE
For those looking to buy a forecourt, existing sites are very hard to come by at the present time, according to David Hunter from property specialist Adlers. He was speaking during one of the Forecourt Live! sessions, called ’Developing your forecourt business’. He gave a brief oversight into the factors that govern the petrol station market from a property perspective, both in terms of the initial acquisition of the property, and factors that could help to maximise on the investment.
"A lot of the forecourts we get are better for alternative use," he said. "They may be a bit small and don’t fit the criteria for expansion, and the value for residential use will far outweigh anything on the fuel station front."
In terms of looking for a site, Hunter said the key things to consider included location and visibility to the surrounding trade; whether that trade was car borne or pedestrian; and what type of people lived or worked in the surrounding area. Being aware of the competition, both on the fuel and shop side of the business, was also essential.
He said potential purchasers of a site should consider the patterns of trade; whether it is a business in growth or decline; what the profit centres are - eg car wash, lottery, or ATM - things that will attract people to the site and in turn help the business make money.
"You also need to consider at least three years of accounts," said Hunter. "We would look at the accountants’ figures for the business, but we also need to look at the underlying figures - fuel volume, shop turnover and how that’s broken down, and what the profitability is. An area of immense local competition is likely to drive down the margins on a site... which will detract from the overall value of the property."
Alec Cornish-Trestrail from ACT Design, who has designed many top dealer sites, said there was a very good chance the 3,000sq ft size restriction on shops - necessary to comply with Sunday trading laws - could be lifted to 4,000 sq ft. He advised anyone thinking of building a shop to erect a big steel frame, put in a stud wall at 280sq m, but be prepared to move it back in the future.
Comparing today’s forecourt building requirements with those of 15-20 years ago, Cornish-Trestrail - who worked for Esso for 30 years before leaving in 1990 - said: "These days we have to put in double-skinned tanks, plastic pipework and 10,000 litre interceptors, as well as complex retail data systems."
Having once been amazed at building a forecourt shop of 60sq m, he now never builds a shop smaller than 150sq m. "Most of them - space permitting - are 280sq m, to meet the current 3,000sq ft rule," he said. "All the shops I build go to a symbol group. We wouldn’t dream of putting in an oil company shop, because there is no way they (retailers) can fill or run that in a 150-280sq m shop."
He said a small job will often end up as a big one because of unknown quantities - particularly underground - as well as the requirements of new rules and regulations. He advised retailers to phase the development if they hadn’t the money to do it all in one go.
In 1990 you only had to get three approvals - planning, building regulation and local fire officer. "What has been added since then is vapour recovery; an asbestos survey; underground survey; site investigation; Party Wall Act; CONDAM regulations; and Environment Agency requirements," said Cornish-Trestrial. He said the typical time schedule for service station redevelopment works was 12 months, but often it was longer.
Budgens currently has 42 forecourts out of 86 stores run by independent retailers, according to Mike Fitton, head of Budgens Retailer Support. He cited Forecourt Trader of the Year winners Jonathan and Rebecca James and Susie Hawkins as good examples of how the Budgens store works on a forecourt. The symbol group’s forecourt shops range from 1,400 sq ft to 3,000 sq ft with turnovers from £25k to £80k a week.
Fitton said: "With sites now bigger and busier than ever, retailers need to offer a bigger range to differentiate themselves and offer something the competition doesn’t. You need to think about why someone would come to you rather than the shop round the corner."
Mark Wilson, group operations manager at the Fraser Group, (see news section) talked about the "strong, independent family business", which has won two Forecourt Trader of the Year awards. "We feel the only way we can continue to fight the supermarkets is to expand the business," he said. "It’s a difficult time. But we can’t afford to stand still."