Teamwork seems to be the name of the game in the main route category, with two married couples extending their partnerships onto the forecourt with great success.
MAIN ROUTE WINNER 2005
Winning independents Mike and Julie Dearing of the Chatham Road Service Station in Maidstone, Kent were thrilled to claim the overall main route crown after entering the competition for the first time. They say it will only make them work even harder to maintain the high standards that impressed our judges.
“We were very pleased,” says Mike. “All the staff made a concerted effort to do as well as we possibly could, but we didn’t expect to win. Now we want to strive to even higher standards and hope to enter again this year.”
The husband and wife team have worked together in the petrol retailing business since they were married in 1988. They were previously licencees for four sites and Mike also spent a year working as manager for BP at a company-owned forecourt.
The couple bought the Chatham Road site in 1992. It underwent a knock-down rebuild five years ago and has a square four-pump layout. Although small, it is perfectly formed. “We can’t expand any more, but we make the most of what we’ve got,” explains Mike. “We’re doing 150-160,000 litres a week on a postage stamp-sized forecourt.”
The site lost its visibility from the main road when it was bypassed by the A229 dual carriageway eight years ago.
But where similar roadwork schemes have devastated some businesses, Mike says it’s been the opposite for this forecourt: “It’s actually been the best thing that could have happened to us because the traffic flow has increased,” he says. “You can’t see the site at all from the dual carriageway, but there is good signage.” And being positioned about 100 hundred yards before junction six of the M20 also does no harm.
The site is BP branded and a new five year contract is about to be signed. It is managed by Cathy Rains, who has worked for the couple for 16 years. The 1,000sq ft Mace-branded store has a full convenience offering, including alcohol, and is taking in excess of £1m a year.
“We’ve been with Mace for 18 months and it’s one of the best business decisions we’ve ever made,” says Mike. “They’ve not broken any of their promises and have really helped us to develop the store. Shop sales are up and most importantly shop profitability is up. It’s exceeding all of our expectations.”
The site is open 24 hours and recently opened on Christmas Day for the first time in several years. The Dearings decided to try their hand at selling frozen turkeys and sold four – which was all their stock.
The store attracts a lot of customers buying lunch on the go and has a hot drinks machine and microwave for heating food. There are also regular special offers – milk is currently cheaper than in the main supermarkets. “We try to compete where we can,” says Mike.
MAIN ROUTE: OIL CO/SUPERMARKET-OWNED AND MANAGED
United Co-op only took over this award-winning forecourt in Nether Poppleton, York, 18 months ago and manager Joanne Kitching has enjoyed working with the company to develop the site. The shop has recently been completely refurbished and now has a wider range of stock and is running more special offers. As a result both sales and volumes are on the up.
Joanne has worked in the industry for 12 years and managed this site for six, staying on when United Co-op came in.
“I was really surprised to win, but extremely proud,” she says. “United Co-op has put a lot of work into the shop and I’m enjoying working with all that. I think it’s one of the biggest service stations the company owns and it’s improving every week.”
The site is open 24 hours and features a manned conveyor car wash, as well as jet washes and vacuums.
MAIN ROUTE: OIL CO-OWNED/FRANCHISEE OPERATED
Our second award-winning husband and wife team, John and Jo Montgomery, have been Esso franchisees for six years at the Ring Service Station in Norwich. The family moved to the area from Aberdeen, where John previously worked in oil company logistics. They are also franchisees of a second Esso site three miles away, which their daughter Carly mainly looks after.
This well-maintained forecourt boasts a new Istobal car wash, while the neat and tidy shop offers alcohol, chilled foods and all the major brands.
Jo says the success of the site is all down to teamwork. “We never get staff to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves,” she says. “We work on the tills, clean the loos and tidy up. We’re one big team. Winning has been a real boost for everyone who works here.”