Past winners of the Forecourt Trader of the Year awards obviously know a thing or two about running a service station business. But they also know how to enter awards - and get themselves noticed.
If you’ve been a winner at the Forecourt Trader awards then you’ve obviously done the right things to make sure the judges don’t pass you by - not just because your forecourt is the best in its class, but because you’ve managed to communicate that by putting in a good entry.
There are probably many of you who think your site is as good as, if not better than, the forecourts that have won and yet didn’t get past the first hurdle. But how good was your entry? To give you a helping hand, we have compiled some tips to give you the best possible chance of winning.
You can be sure we go to great lengths to make sure the competition is as fair as possible. There is no favouritism - we just want the best sites and the best retailers in our industry to come to the fore. After all, they may have something to teach us all - advice that can be used to improve everyone’s business.
But we believe everyone should have an even chance of winning something in the Forecourt Trader awards, and if you think you’ve got something to shout about, we want your entry to be as good as you can make it.
== CATEGORIES TO ENTER ==
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. Groupings are by type of operation - Rural, Neighbourhood, Main Route and Motorway.
We also identify sites by ownership status 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.
If you think your site excels in a specific area, there are 12 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 Impulse Ice Cream Outlet
? Best Soft Drinks Outlet
? Best Use of Retail Technology
? Best Tobacco Merchandising
== Entry pack ==
But first things first - get hold of an entry pack by either calling the awards hotline - 01293 867654 - or by visiting our website [http://www.forecourttraderawards.co.uk]. Once you’ve received it, read it thoroughly and make sure you understand the rules and what’s expected of you.
The entry form includes a space to explain why you think your site should be a winner. This is your chance to highlight any big achievements, successes or elements of your business of which you are particularly proud.
The pack also includes the judging criteria for the specialist categories - use these as guidelines, not just for how to run that particular category of your business, but also as a BIG CLUE as to what the judges are looking for.
== Entry form ==
Make sure your entry form has been completed 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.
== Photographs ==
We can’t stress enough the importance of the photographs. The early rounds are judged anonymously - using only the pictures you’ve sent in. You can’t be judged on what we can’t see (so don’t just send in a picture of the front door - yes, it’s been done!) 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 the outside shots on a dull, rainy day - if at all possible. 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.
This year only digital photography is being accepted - please send on a disc, with pictures in separate folders for each category you are entering. Don’t forget to clearly label the disc with the site name and categories entered.
== Written entries ==
Four of the specialist categories require written entries - Best Use of Retail Technology, Best Customer Service, Best Food-to-Go Outlet, and Best Tobacco Merchandising. In around 300 words, bearing in mind the judging criteria detailed in the entry pack, you should clearly explain why your site should be a winner.
== And finally... ==
The awards are not about having the biggest all-singing all-dancing site - they 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, or download one from the website. Last of all - good luck.
=== BEFORE YOU SEND IN YOUR ENTRY, CHECK THAT YOU HAVE: ===
? Supplied full and correct name and address details
? Told us why you should be a winner
? Ticked the right ownership and category boxes
? Provided good quality photographs
? Included a written entry where appropriate
=== Judging process ===
? The judging team is chaired by Forecourt Trader editor Merril Boulton, and includes the Forecourt Trader team, as well as PRA director Ray Holloway, Garagewatch founder and CEO Mark Bradshaw, and our very own Shop Doctor, who all play a key role in the marathon on-the-road judging stages as the finalists are decided.
? The sponsors are involved in the first round of the judging which takes place at William Reed Publishing Ltd’s head office in Crawley, West Sussex. The process involves looking at all the entries, which are presented anonymously. Marks are awarded for each entry. They include an overall mark for the site and a separate mark for each specialist category. This round relies entirely on the photographs of your site and shop (apart from the four written-entry categories) 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, to see if the forecourt is trading as well as is shown in the pictures. Cleanliness, tidiness and friendly and helpful staff are key elements for consideration at this stage, as well as adherence to the criteria for the specialist categories. If the site is every bit as good as the photographs showed, it goes on to the final rounds. 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!
? There will be three finalists competing for each of the specialist category awards; and also three finalists in each ownership status category competing for the national title of Best Rural Retailer, Best Neighbourhood Retailer and Best Main Route Retailer, as well as Best Motorway Site. The Forecourt Trader of the Year winner will be chosen from these category winners.