Do you think your site has got what it takes to win a prize at this year’s Forecourt Trader of the Year awards? If the answer is yes, we want to hear from you. But while you might have a fantastic facility that is well managed and well looked after, it’s surprising how many good retailers fall at the first post because they haven’t put enough effort into their entry. So, to give you a head start, we’ve compiled some hints and tips to help you make sure your site has the best possible chance of scooping that top prize. THE CATEGORIES Whether you’re a rural site providing an invaluable service to the local community, or a manager of a big oil company forecourt, we have a category for you. Last year we restructured the awards so we now have groupings by type of operation – Rural, Neighbourhood, Main Route and Motorway. The ownership status was also enhanced to cover oil company/supermarket-owned and managed; oil company-owned/franchisee; independent dealer with up to nine sites; and independent dealer with 10 sites or more. And if you think your site excels in a specific area, there are 11 specialist categories to enter as well. These are: • Best Site with a Licence to Sell Alcohol • Best Car Care & Lubricants Outlet • Best Display of Chilled Food • Best Confectionery Outlet • Best Crisps & Snacks Outlet • Best Customer Service • Best Food-to-Go Outlet • Best Forecourt Facilities • Best Soft Drinks Outlet • Best Use of Retail Technology • Best Tobacco Merchandising CALL FOR AN ENTRY PACK But first things first – get hold of an entry pack by either calling the awards hotline or by visiting our website (see below for details). Once you’ve got it, give it a good read and make sure you understand the rules and what’s expected of you. The entry pack includes the judging criteria for each of the specialist categories, so if you follow the advice as best you can, you won’t go far wrong. FILL IT IN CORRECTLY Make sure your entry form has been filled in correctly, with the site’s full name, address and telephone details. And please make sure you tick the right ownership box for your site! You don’t want to be knocked out of the competition because the judges have visited your site and discovered you’ve entered the wrong category. Also, don’t forget to fill in the section where you tell us why your site should be a winner. This is your chance to highlight any achievements and successes that can’t be shown through the photographs. SEND QUALITY PHOTOGRAPHS It’s these photographs that can make or break your entry so make sure they show your site in its best light. You can’t be judged on what we can’t see, so the photographs should give a good impression of both the interior and exterior of your site. They need to be bright and clear, so try not to take them on a dull, rainy day! And if you’re entering a specialist category, make sure the photos show how you are meeting the judges’ criteria. If you have multiple displays for some products, for example, let’s see them. Also, don’t mount the photographs. To make the judging fair, the entries have to look anonymous so they’re mounted on A3 sheets by William Reed staff. And make sure the pictures are clearly marked on the back of each one in case they go astray. WRITTEN ENTRIES Three of the specialist categories require written entries – Best Use of Retail Technology, Best Customer Service and Best Food-to-Go Outlet. In around 300 words, bearing in mind the appropriate judging criteria detailed in the entry pack, you should clearly explain why your site should be a winner. AND FINALLY... It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the biggest all-singing all-dancing site because the awards recognise the dedication, hard work and entrepreneurial skills of all petrol retailers, however large or small. So if you think you’ve got what it takes, pick up the phone and ask for an entry pack now. Good luck. The judging process • The first round of judging involves the panel of judges looking at all of the anonymous entries, which are mounted on A3 sheets. The panel includes the Forecourt Trader team, plus a forecourt expert from each of the sponsors. Marks are awarded for each entry and these are added up at the end to produce a shortlist for every category. This round relies entirely on the photographs of your site and shop so make sure they show off your forecourt and facilities to their best advantage. • Judges then take to the road and visit the top-scoring forecourt in each category. If the site is every bit as good as the photographs showed, it becomes the winner for that category. If the site doesn’t quite come up to scratch, judges move down the shortlist to the next highest scorer, and so on. It’s not unheard of for high-scoring forecourts from the first round of judging to be knocked out of the competition at this stage. So make sure you don’t let standards slip once the pictures have been taken! • When the winners have been chosen for each individual category, it’s time to pick the best rural, neighbourhood, main route and motorway sites. This is when the competition really heats up, and we’re left with four contenders for the big prize. • Then it’s time for the excruciatingly tough decision of who is crowned Forecourt Trader of the Year 2005. Will it be the best rural site, the best neighbourhood site, the best main route forecourt, or the best motorway site?