Winner of the year Brackenvale Retail Centre is no stranger to the Forecourt Trader awards after winning the top title in 2001. The site is currently managed by Sam Hawkes, and Michael McElwee, general manager for the operating company, Merit Retail, said Brackenvale’s latest win has been a great morale booster for all the team. Michael believes that the site’s success is down to a number of factors. “Firstly, customer service is what we’re all about,” he says. “Customers shop with us because time is of the essence – they want to get in and out quickly. “The variety of our offer also makes us successful,” he adds. “We’re not just another convenience store – we like to think we’re always innovating.” Brackenvale has recently installed a dog washing machine on the forecourt and it’s already proving a big hit. “We washed three dozen dogs on Christmas Eve,” reveals Michael. Merit Retail, which also operates another forecourt in Northern Ireland, has an ethos to never run out of product. “At key times when other shops have run out of things like bread and milk, customers know that they’ll always be able to pick it up at Brackenvale,” says Michael. The site is also renowned for its hot food operation and planning permission is currently going through for a site facelift and extension. Main route franchise Excellent customer service is what makes Sgiwen Total in Neath such a successful site, says manager Rajendran Rajkumar. In fact, since winning the main route franchisee category in the Forecourt Trader of the Year awards, Raj and his teams at the three Total sites he operates in South Wales achieved 100% in the oil company’s Total Impression mystery shopper programme. But the Forecourt Trader award has had a big impact on all of Raj’s staff. “While we have won awards from Total before, this is the first award from outside the oil company so the staff are very pleased,” say Raj. “Next year they want to enter all three sites.” The shop at Sgiwen Total has a weekly turnover of £6,000 and the New Year kicked off a one-month trial for 24-hour trading. If the trial is successful, Raj’s other two sites – in Pontypridd and Briton Ferry – will also go 24 hours. Raj says: “With fuel we can’t compete on price so we offer good customer service instead.” Main route company owned The Forecourt Trader award is a particularly good achievement for Jan Wallis considering she is fairly new to the petrol retailing industry. She has been running BP’s Wisley South Connect on the busy A3 Ripley bypass for three and half years and before that she worked for Tesco. “This is all new to me,” she says. “I’ve had ups and downs, especially in learning the fuel side, but I’m enjoying it. This award is a great achievement and the recognition makes all that hard work worthwhile.” Wisley South Connect is an incredibly busy site situated on the main route from London to Portsmouth, so average fuel volume is around 320,000 litres per week, but that can rise to 450,000 litres in the summer. Shop turnover is typically £48,000 per week, but that can jump to £58-60,000 in the summer. Jan believes the site’s success is partly down to its location, but also because of the staff training in place that emphasises the importance of customer service. Main route company owned Eamonn McCorry has been running the BP-branded forecourt with Spar shop for three years and has 10 years experience in the forecourt sector. The shop is currently taking £100,000 a week and weekly fuel volume is 50,000 litres. But it’s the fuel side that presents Eamonn and his team with their greatest challenge. “We’re in Ranfurly, only 11 miles from the Republic of Ireland where fuel prices are very competitive,” says Eamonn. “We have to make the forecourt as inviting as possible so that our customers stay here rather than do the 22-mile round trip for the cheaper fuel.” So the site is now looking to improve services and is currently trialling a hot chip vending machine. The staff have been particularly pleased with the award. “Because it went to the site and not just me they feel they’re being rewarded for their hard work,” says Eamonn. “It has also been extra motivation for them – the standard has now been set and they want to win next year.”