Brian Donaldson CEO Maxol 2021

Brian Donaldson: “Our ambition is to become the regular store and first choice for convenience, fresh food and, where available, alcohol to take home”

Maxol is targeting shoppers in their mid-20s, pre-family and with greater spending power, as it repositions from a traditional fuels-centric company to a convenience led retailer.

The Irish business, which has 120 company-owned outlets and 130 independent dealers in its forecourt network, is continuing its Bags More TV advertising during 2024, aimed at this demographic. The campaign will go on air at the beginning of March taking in big holiday periods such as St Patrick’s Day weekend in mid-March to Easter, and back to school in September to late October.

The commercials feature a young couple in a Volvo car revealing their Maxol shopping bags which unexpectedly contain everyday grocery items such as toothpaste and cereal, rather than the impulse eat now lines traditionally associated with forecourts.

The adverts will continue to be linked to Maxol’s loyalty app, with hopes to increase users from 40,000 now to more than 80,000.

Maxol is also collaborating with Ireland’s biggest grocer, Dunnes Stores, to trial around 190 items from its Simply Better premium convenience range, including ready-meals, fresh soup, frozen food and wines in a concession at one of its company-owned Republic of Ireland stores.

Currently the store within a store concept is making its debut in one of Maxol’s Dublin stores, and Maxol Group chief executive Brian Donaldson, who was speaking at the ACS/PRA Forecourt, Power & Convenience Conference in Leicester on 31 January, hopes to roll it out to more locations by the end of the year.

“We have great synergies, two successful, long-standing family-owned Irish businesses working together,” says Brian, who adds that the initiative will feature grab and go chillers and meal deals.

Touchscreen ordering, which twentysomethings are comfortable using, is also planned at Maxol’s larger hot and cold deli counters later this year. The technology, which Brian says will be used to upsell customers, will initially be trialled in its stores in and around Dublin.

It is a step on from the digital screens it introduced last year to replace static menu boards, enabling the store to change its deli offer depending on the time of day. When the section is closed the screens are used for promotions, or to encourage customers to visit other parts of the business.

The plans to appeal to the mid-20s age group would fit with data from the Lumina Intelligence Convenience Tracking Programme that shows that forecourt customers are younger than the grocery norm, with 47% aged between 18 to 34 in quarter three of 2023.

Longer-term plans for Maxol in the next five years include an £87m investment in its retail network, with new electric vehicle hubs with canopies for comfort and lighting for security, replacement closed door refrigeration, car washes, and CCTV equipment. It is also looking for more sites to acquire that have a strong convenience and food business, and EBITDA of around 70% from non-fuel.


Maxol is looking to build its forecourt estate by acquiring more sites with an EBITDA of around 70% from non-fuel

“Our ambition is to become the regular store and first choice for convenience, fresh food and, where available, alcohol to take home,” says Brian. “Our hero categories of coffee and freshly prepared food for now or take home will continue to be developed. Bakery and impulse lines are being upweighted to grow sales and give greater choice.”

On the forecourt, recent changes have included an investment in Nayax terminals to give contactless payment at the car washes. Cashless outdoor payment terminals (OPTs) remain a key feature with most company-owned sites having at least two islands with OPTs. Contrary to popular belief this actually grows instore sales, says Brian.

Brian admits that it will take time for Maxol to be seen as more than a major player in retailing fuel. “In many ways it’s more challenging for us. For over 100 years we have always been known as a fuels provider and to shift the dial and perception of the brand to consumers is more complex but not impossible.”