Winner of the year 2004 The Neighbourhood category was toughly contested, with many retailers falling into this sector. But Peter and Pat Bellini, having already been judged as the best ‘Neighbourhood Independent with nine sites or less’ came out on top of the Neighbourhood category overall. They then beat off stiff competition to win the top prize – Forecourt Trader of the Year (See June and November 04 issues). The Shell-branded site has a 7,000sq ft store, featuring extensive off licence and Costa Coffee shop. Neighbourhood Oil company/multiple Grocer-owned/managed Martin Reynolds has certainly made his mark on the BP-branded site in Upper Newtonards Road in Belfast since he arrived there three years ago. He had always worked in the convenience retailing sector, but this was his first encounter with petrol retailing. However he was unphased by the experience: “It was a challenge. But I used to do a lot of driving, so I was often on forecourts and knew what I wanted as a customer, therefore it was easy to think about accommodating people’s needs. They want speed at the pumps and to be served quickly at the till. Customers also want a reliable car wash, so we make sure ours are in good working order by checking them thoroughly every day.” The site also features a 3,000sq ft Spar store, with a Subway offering and Post Office under one roof. It also features hot coffee, Paypoint, bake-off, ATM, and a coal bunker for solid fuel. Martin is busy on the shop floor all the time, to keep up to speed on everything, including the staff: “You are only as good as your weakest member,” he says. Neighbourhood Oil Co-owned/franchisee Ranjit Munde has been in retailing for 15 years, but the Redland Murco forecourt in Redland, Bristol, where he has been for the past three years, is his first as a contract operator. The site features a 2,100sq ft store which does about £16,000 a week and includes an off licence, Bake ’n’ Bite, and comprehensive grocery range. Fuel volumes are around 45-50,000 litres a week, but the site is unable to get planning permission for a car wash. Customers are a mix of residential and students, so term times are the busiest periods, with products such as spirits, wines, pizza, ready meals and pasta flying off the shelves. Opening hours are 7am till 11pm, and Ranjit likes to spend as much of that time as possible on the shop floor – although at the moment he is helping out on another site which is making him extra busy. “I like to talk to the customers so they get to know who I am and are happy to talk to me and let me know what they want. Winning was a great morale booster – it raises our profile in the area and the customers love it.” Neighbourhood Independent with 10 sites or more Gregory Cochrane has always been in retailing, including a spell in America. He took over as manager of Eurospar Rathgael Road, in Bangor, County Down, three years ago. The site – part of the Andrew Millar Group – has a 4,000sq ft store, which is going to be extended to 6,000sq ft in the near future. It features hot food-to-go, a delicatessen and a butcher. The extra space will enable to the store to expand its ethnic food offering. “We will be able to offer anything from Indian to Chinese to Italian,” says Gregory. He believes the success of the store is down to the fantastic team of people that work there – 25 in all, a mix of full and part time. “We are very focused on what we are trying to achieve. I believe in empowering people, making them responsible for their own area. I also try to make sure they have the right information and know their own self-worth. I wouldn’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. When we go in for awards, we go into it together. After all, you’re only as good as the people around you.”