Standards in the neighbourhood category of the Forecourt Trader of the Year 2005 awards were extremely high, with two sites winning awards for the second year running. It showed that retailers haven’t let their success allow them to become complacent.

NEIGHBOURHOOD WINNER: Independent nine sites or less

Susie Hawkins, (featured in the November issue) was not only judged as the best ‘Neighbourhood Independent with nine sites or less’, but also came out top of the overall category. She then went on to become the first female solo entrant to take the top prize – Forecourt Trader of the Year 2005. Her Total-branded site in Gloucester, has been transformed after a knock-down rebuild, and now features a 2,800sq ft Budgens store. offers an extensive range.

Oil Co/Supermarket-owned & managed - Martin Reynolds

This is the second year in a row that Martin Reynolds, manager of Spar Ballyhackamore in Belfast, has collected this award.

Part of the Henderson Retail group, this forecourt is very well placed on a busy commuter route, but also draws in customers from the surrounding neighbourhood area, with a number of schools and businesses within a half-mile radius. There is also plenty of competition nearby – with a new Tesco Express within 200 yards, as well as Iceland and a Co-op – meaning standards have to be very high.

Martin has run the site for four years, overseeing a complete knock-down rebuild in 2004: “We’ve got a fantastic set-up now and fantastic staff. I’ve been able to build a very strong team,” he says. “Good, friendly customer service is the key.”

The BP-branded site offers an impressive array of services, including a 3,000sq ft Spar shop, Subway franchise and Post Office, as well as an ATM, Paypoint, a drive-through car wash and jet wash.

Oil co-owned/Franchisee - Ranjit Munde

Ranjit Munde is another retailer who has scored back to back success in the neighbourhood category, winning two years in a row. “It’s nice to get another award. It’s good for the staff and the customers like it,” he says.

The Redland Murco forecourt in Bristol includes a 2,000sq ft Costcutter store, which meets all the top-up shopping needs of the local community, with a comprehensive grocery range, as well as an off licence and Bake ‘n’ Bite. It is particularly popular with the large local student population, which provides a big chunk of the trade. Ranjit has been unable to get planning permission for a much-wanted car wash, but hasn’t given up hope and continues to try.

He has been at the Redland site for four years, but has more than 15 years experience in convenience retailing. A clean and tidy site is a priority for Ranjit and with opening hours from 7am to 11pm he is kept very busy: “The hours are long. It takes a lot of time and commitment , but that’s the way it has to be,” he says. “I like to be on the shop floor, keeping an eye on things. That’s how to be successful.”

Independent 10 sites or more - Nadarajah Sivakumar

This award was a first for Nadarajah Sivakumar and, he says, a very pleasant surprise. He has run the Snax 24 forecourt in Johnstown, Clwyd, for two years as a commission operator, but has worked for the company for six years, starting out as a cashier.

Nadarajah runs the business with eight members of staff, and, as the name would suggest, the site is open 24 hours a day. The site attracts a good mix of customers, with plenty of families thanks to its neighbourhood setting. As well as a full convenience offering with off licence, there is also an ATM and jet wash.

As our judges noticed, Nadarajah and his team work very hard at keeping things spick and span: “I like to keep a very clean and tidy site. Customers like that. Reasonable prices are also important.”

Since winning this award, the site has changed its fuel branding from Texaco to BP. This has coincided with a mini-makeover with bright new signage, which is attracting new customers.