Wayne Harrand: One site has seen weekly losses resulting from no means of payment incidents amounting to almost £1,200

No-means-of-payment (NMoP) incidents have trebled over the past six months for Top Indie retailer MPK Garages, with people using the excuse as “a kind of payday loan”, stalling payment for three or four weeks, while they are tracked down for payment.

That is according to the group’s retail director Wayne Harrand, who told delegates at the ACS/PRA Forecourt Power & Convenience Conference this week that the situation has been getting worse for at least 12 months. It is not helped by some ”big corporate retailers” writing off losses and not chasing up cases so it is seen as a no implication crime, he added.

“It’s a massive problem, it’s cash lost straight off your bottom line,” said Wayne, who says weekly losses resulting from no means of payment incidents amount to almost £1,200 at one site. And while drive-offs remain, their frequency is reducing, with advancements in vehicle recognition technology discouraging attempts.

As a result NMoP accounts for some 80% of the mostly Midlands-based business’s unpaid fuel costs, and Wayne said it is laborious and time consuming to get this money back.

Over Christmas, MPK Garages started working with payment recovery service Fuel Guardian to digitalise and streamline the process. It found that in a trial site a recover rate of over 90% was achieved, with consumers paying within seven days.

“It is an unbelievable simple product to use and so accessible,” said Wayne. “It takes five minutes for a member of staff to take a customer’s details and if they don’t pay after that there is no need for us to fill out an 11 to 12 page report to send to the government, our partner Fuel Guardian will deal with the process and recover the monies in full.

“It removes a lot of challenges in recovering the money and leaves us to focus on customers which is what we do best,” said Wayne, who urged delegates to follow his company’s lead in introducing this sort of technology.

During a panel discussion, he told attendees that smaller operators should not think that innovations such as self-serve checkouts and electronic shelf edge labelling are the sole preserve of the big players. 

“We as smaller retailers can access all of this tech,” said Wayne. “Don’t think that it is not accessible. It is.” And the returns speak for themselves. As well as managing the inventory and supporting range controls, MPK Garages has used electronic shelf edge labelling to increase margins across its estate of between 3% and 5%.

“We managed the margin up very quickly, by using the digital labels to react quickly to price changes and provide consumers with the latest promotions instantly,” said Wayne. This includes its Cheaper Than Tesco! weekly deal, with around 50 revolving products across the store.

“One person manages the prices centrally and the digital shelf edge company provides the insights,” he continued. ”We sold vodka, gin and cider over Christmas cheaper than Tesco, and this week, household products have been a focus for consumers. What we are telling our customers, is that we are on your doorstep, don’t pass us by to drive to Tesco, we have what you need at the right price!”