Leading wholesaler Palmer and Harvey has published The Forecourt Report 2012, ‘understanding today and preparing for tomorrow’. The report predicts the future evolution of forecourts in the UK, in the short, medium and long term. 

The company conducted detailed consumer research (in conjunction with shopper research specialist him!) to establish how shoppers currently perceive forecourts.  The 80-page report examines the latest technological developments and showcases the best of global forecourt design, along with identifying opportunities for savvy retailers to drive profit.  The report also offers practical advice with a step-by-step plan to guide retailers through future-proofing their sites.

Palmer and Harvey worked with forecourt design experts Circle Design to create visualisations of what the forecourt of 2025 could look like.

The research found that shoppers are keen to see improvements in queuing, parking and washroom facilities along with technology being utilised to improve the customer shopping experience.

When asked what services forecourts could offer to improve the experience, 83% would like to see Pay at Pump facilities, eight out of ten motorists (80%) want to see charging points for electric cars, three-quarters (74%) would like to see plasma screens offering real-time traffic news and 78% think forecourts should offer more parking spaces for customers who don’t want to buy fuel but just go shopping.
In addition, 51% of shoppers would like to see forecourts offer a post office service, one in three a pharmacy, and a third of motorists   want to have their windscreen cleaned, oil and water checked.

It found that drivers are being frustrated by longer queues at the petrol pumps: 98% of motorists saying they’re waiting longer to fuel up than they were a few years ago, more than half are seeing an extra three minutes added to their wait time and one in five are waiting for an additional five minutes or more.

The high price of petrol also means that three-quarters of drivers will now check pump prices before filling up, while over a quarter of motorists now put in less petrol each time. Most motorists compare prices between petrol stations before they drive in, with half checking two petrol stations and a third checking three. 

In addition, most drivers are only topping up to slightly over half a tank, and for 16% of drivers this is less than they were filling up a year ago.

In fact, in the past year a huge majority of drivers (70%) have driven until their red fuel warning light came on, and for a quarter of motorists it is a monthly occurrence. Four per cent of drivers have actually called out the breakdown services because they have run out of petrol, while one in six motorists say that in the future they’ll be more likely to leave it until the last minute before topping up the tank.

Martyn Ward, commercial director of Palmer and Harvey, says: “The forecourt sector is under huge pressure at the moment and consumers are much more careful with their money. We felt it was time for us to find out what improvements motorists want and what innovations forecourts can implement to drive profitability. The Forecourt Report looks at the challenges facing us all, as well as identifying opportunities for retailers to increase sales. It also showcases the most inspirational global innovations."

Martyn Ward continues: “Like all consumers, motorists are becoming more sophisticated and expect the same quality of service from their petrol stations as they get on the high street. This is why many ambitious retailers are looking at offering new technologies and additional services such as a Post Office or pharmacy.”

Palmer and Harvey is the UK’s largest delivered wholesaler. It supplies 70% of all UK forecourts and advises many on how to improve their businesses.