A s the doors closed on last month’s Forecourt Show, National Convenience Show, and Farm Shop & Deli Show 2017, it had been another busy year packed full of inspiration, advice and support all under one roof. Both visitor and exhibitor numbers were up on previous years as the industry came together to learn, share and develop all aspects of their businesses across the diverse range of product and services on offer.

The Retailer Hub attracted record audiences with almost 100 people gathering to hear from speakers from the fuel retailing sector. Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, updated visitors on market trends, talking about the startling changes that have taken place in the past few years which have made the forecourt sector a "compelling place for people to invest in". He spoke about three major changes which had had a significant impact: plummeting oil prices; oil companies retreating from frontline retailing; and the end of the space race by the big four supermarkets. As a consequence there is now a strong trading environment with retail fuel sales in growth; improved fuel margins; accessible bank finance and great interest in the sector being shown by private equity firms. This has led to high demand for petrol filling stations which has pushed up asset value by 50%.

Blake Gladman, research and insight director from leading shopper insight experts HIM, spoke about the Forecourt Shopper of Today and Tomorrow. With trips to refuel becoming a secondary mission for shoppers, he stressed that shoppers today don’t really see a distinction between forecourt and standalone convenience stores, "they see a convenience store, and one just happens to sell fuel as part of its offer".

Kevin Eastwood from BOSS spoke about the two main issues of forecourt crime drive-offs and no means of payment (NMoP). He said the not-for-profit organisation had been very successful in recovering NMoP debts. It identifies the multiple offenders and submits their details forward to the National Fraud Investigation Bureau. Between September 2015 and September 2016 it submitted 13,200 individual incident reports to Action Fraud accounting for 94% of the incidents that are reported.

Ramsay MacDonald, retail director of Certas Energy part of DCC, which runs 1,000 forecourts across Europe described his company as the only UK fuel supplier that runs its own sites as well as supplying 700 independent dealers including 500 Gulf-branded sites. "That gives us a unique insight as to why people drive onto forecourts and some of the emerging trends. When you do partner with a fuel supplier, it’s helpful to know that there is a team there, delivering our fuel with our own drivers all committed to delivering for your business; and also able to give you some important business advice as to what we’re seeing on sites that we own and operate." He said the four key elements of a forecourt operation came under the headings of quick service, in stock, friendliness and cleanliness.

Also at the Retailer Hub, celebrity TV presenter Saira Khan encouraged retailers and exhibitors to learn to sell themselves better; and Jimmy Cregan of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee got the crowd rocking with a chorus from his highly-viewed rap video, Keep Your Chin Up (#KYCU). The co-located Digital Hub helped retailers find ways to cut through the noise and communicate with their customers more effectively.

All the main car wash, fuel pump and forecourt technology suppliers exhibited, along with key fuel suppliers Gulf, Murco, Greenergy, Harvest Energy and Jet. The nationwide availability of Jet Sentinel diesel was a key message on the Phillips 66/Jet stand. Graham Clout, retail sales manager at Phillips 66, said the premium fuels market was growing across the UK and certainly for the Jet brand: "Sentinel diesel is now available across the entire UK," he said. "It is becoming more and more important to have a premium fuel offering. Our dealers are looking for it and so are our customers, who invest a lot of money in the vehicle they drive and want to get the best performance from it, and protect their investment."

Within NCS, protein and better-for-you products were out in force. Of note was Savse, which describes itself as the UK’s fastest-growing smoothies brand, showcasing its full range of 100% natural, cold pressed, fruit and vegetable smoothies.

After a long day around the show and the neighbouring ACS Summit, visitors welcomed the chance to network at the Forecourt Trader Indie 5000 drinks reception, followed by the After Show Party, enjoying a curry and a beer while being entertained by leading TV comic Dominic Holland. The last day of the show was equally busy for visitors who also attended the nearby ACS/PRA Forecourt Conference.

But the climax of the show was the hotly contested Great New Idea with visitors voting on the next big thing. In the forecourt category, it was down to Bever Innovations and Video Poster to fight it out with the former taking the crown. Bever Innovations has created new EOS technology that it believes could build bridges in the petrol industry. "What we’re talking about is delivering a degree of collaboration and visibility unheard of in the petrol retail market," says Jeannot Bruggeling, commercial director.

In the NCS, category it was a hot contest between the Covent Garden Soup Co’s new foodservice dispense solution and Gumipod with its innovative chewing gum pack with a self-contained bin for disposal. Both products had been making waves across the week. Covent Garden Soup Co snatched victory.