MRH (GB) has five potential acquisitions on the go that could close this side of the summer, according to the company’s chief executive Karen Dickens. She said scale was really important because of the best deals that can be had from a shop, fuels or foodservice perspective.
"But the real reason is the customer. As we’re looking at reinforcing the MRH brand and the service and everything that stands for, we’re looking at acquisitions that build our network to make sure that more people can experience what we have to offer across the whole country. We want to be in the islands of Scotland right down to Penzance. A lot of the acquisitions we’re looking at are in areas where we don’t have a strong presence today. It’s a geographical strategy, not a numbers strategy. A really good performing single dealer in a good location where we don’t have a presence, could be as interesting to us a small group dealer."
Dickens said MRH – which acquired 26-site Top 50 Indie Spring Petroleum last year - was bearing the fruit of its reputation as a straightforward company to deal with when buying dealer businesses: “We go in, we don’t play games, we’re really clear about what our bid for something is. We work with the people who are selling to make sure we accommodate their sensitivities - be it alcohol, be it commission retailers versus company operated. We deliver what we said we were going to deliver.
“Because of the way we’ve worked with companies we’ve bought, we’re being recommended over some of our competitors. They’re happy and they speak for us and our processes. They’re bringing business and opportunities to us.”
The MRH network is currently undergoing a major review and upgrade as part of a three-pillar strategy, which includes a focus on customer service and experience, site standards, store formats, foodservice, brands and acquisitions. A ‘MRH Driving Retail’ banner will feature on every site to reassure customers of the standards.
All the company’s 480 sites will have wifi and good-quality washrooms – which have already been installed at 200-plus locations and will cost more than £1m. The company is also trialling formats on 20 sites, including seven Co-op stores and seven new Spar concepts; and a variety of formats that will come under MRH’s Hursts brand.
“We currently have a network review, in which we’re going through every site - looking at what’s the right offer, what are the demographics, what’s the customer mission, what’s the right brand,” said Dickens. “We have an industry specialist looking at it for us. It’s good to have an outside view from someone who sees things in a different way to us.
“We are always going to be a fuel retailer, but retail is the future of this business and it’s about making sure we have the right focus on the retail business.”