While pumps are a crucial piece of equipment for every forecourt operator, the market had attracted very little scrutiny from outside the industry until a major upheaval during 2016. The year began with a US conglomerate, Dover Corporation, taking over the product divisions of Tokheim Group, which makes dispensers and electronic equipment. This meant it owned one of the big three manufacturers of pumps sold in the UK market, although Tokheim Solutions UK, which is the exclusive distributor in the UK, remained a separate company.
Then, in early summer last year, Dover announced that it was also buying Wayne Fueling Systems, and this is when the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took an interest. The CMA said it was concerned that a deal for Dover Corporation to take over Wayne’s entire business could limit competition in the UK fuel pumps market, explaining: "Other than Dover and Wayne, there is only one other significant supplier of fuel dispensers in the UK (Gilbarco), with other suppliers lacking sufficient scale to constrain the merged entity." It threatened a lengthy full inquiry into the deal unless Dover could come up with a remedy.
Dover won the CMA’s approval by selling Wayne’s UK distribution business to Petrotec Group, a pump manufacturer based in Portugal, which already had a presence in the UK market. Following a short transitional period, the British company is now officially called Petroassist UK. It will continue to be the authorised distributor of Dover Fueling Solutions for Wayne pumps and solutions for UK and Ireland, but will now provide a much wider range of products and services to its customers and markets. Although it is a part of the Petrotec Group, Petroassist UK will retain its current management, processes and personnel. Head of business development, Barry Onions, says one of the new products it will be introducing in the UK in the forthcoming months will be the new Petrotec Progress II range of pumps, offering a comprehensive range with a model to fit every application and budget.
Onions says: "The Progress II range offers flexible solutions such as the ability to supply combination diesel and AdBlue dispensers in a compact framework, which would be ideal for smaller forecourts or where retailers require cost-effective combinations of nozzles such as AdBlue Truck and Passenger Car on the same dispenser.
"The Petrotec Progress II range features our latest electronics for a superior reliable and long-lasting calculator."
The Progress II range is available with features such as automatic temperature compensation (ATC), stage 2 vapour recovery, medium-, high- and ultra-high flow rates along with special grades such as AdBlue and LPG.
Alistair Clarke, managing director of Tokheim Solutions UK, says the changes which have occurred in the market should make little discernible difference for customers. He states: "We’ll be just as competitive and aggressive as we ever were. If anything, from a pricing point of view, customers will benefit from an increasing competitive spirit."
His company is the exclusive distributor for Tokheim equipment in the UK and he says there is a steady stream of innovations in the pipeline. Two of the latest releases are best suited to high-volume sites serving trucks, but Tokheim’s vehicle detection solution is aimed squarely at the dealer market and has two potential uses. It can be used as an energy-saving measure, only activating pump lighting when a vehicle approaches. However, Clarke says that some dealers do not want to dim their forecourt lighting, especially with low-energy LED lighting, because customers want a bright, welcoming forecourt and won’t enter otherwise. Another use is that it can activate the advertising loop on pumps equipped with screens.
Potentially the biggest new launch is the Quantium AdBlue LV for light vehicles. Clarke says that with the boom in new car sales, and the introduction of the latest Euro 6 engines, this product is attracting a lot of interest. There were concerns whether light vehicle drivers would want to refuel with AdBlue from the dispenser point, and whether they would need it often enough, but he adds: "It is picking up a lot of interest, particularly from retailers who want to show they are at the cutting edge."
Colin Levy, retail operations manager at Certas Energy, is responsible for its 25 company-owned outlets. Last month he oversaw the installation of new Tokheim pumps at Carronvale Service Station in Larbert, Scotland. He says: "We chose the Quantium 410 with media screens. This pump dispenses very quickly and is easy to handle, which appeals to motorists and improves traffic flow on the forecourt. With eight hoses on every pump, we are able to provide all four Gulf fuel grades on every island including our premium product, Endurance.
"All forecourt operators are constantly looking to keep a lid on costs and the sophistication of these pumps is greatly enhancing our efforts. The 410s are exceptionally accurate, the reliability of these pumps is proven and dispensing levels are measured electronically which eliminates the down-time of manual checks. The media screens are an important addition to the Carronvale forecourt, allowing us to cross-promote."
Top 50 Indie retailer Petrocell Holdings operates 10 forecourts and recognises the importance of investment in pumps as part of its ongoing battle to improve revenues and tackle escalating overheads. All of its sites are equipped with multi-hose pumps, ATC and stock monitoring systems. At Mill Hill in Edenbridge, Kent one of the company’s six Gulf-branded forecourts new Gilbarco pumps have recently been installed, complete with media screens.
Managing director Alan Spackman says: "At Mill Hill we are now able to offer more grades at each pump island including Gulf’s higher margin premium fuels which increases our revenue opportunity. The dispensing accuracy and associated stock control measures have pretty much eliminated fuel stock losses and the dispensing speed has improved traffic flow at peak times. The media screens allow us to communicate with motorists at the pump and this is having an impact on sales."
Janu Patel, owner of Jet’s New North Road site in Ilford, Essex, has also invested in new dispensers. He says: "I replaced my pumps as part of a wider refurbishment programme to update my forecourt. I researched a number of pump suppliers, choosing to go with Tokheim as I was very impressed with the package they offered me. Also, I was already familiar with Tokheim as Jet has a pump maintenance contract with them and they maintained my old pumps. I opted for four Tokheim Quantium 510 pumps with ATC two with three nozzles and two with two nozzles.
"I replaced the pumps at the same time as we had work done on the canopy, electrical work, new lighting and fitted new islands. Tokheim managed the entire process and the work took two weeks, with the site closing for just seven days as we managed to keep two pumps running while the other two were replaced. The process went smoothly.
"The new Tokheim pumps have been a great investment. Since installation, volumes have increased by almost 10%. They perform really well, look great and my customers are very happy with them."
Raising extra revenue from pumps
The AdNozzle operation, run by Alvern, part of the T4 Media Group, pays retailers for running advertising on the nozzles of their dispensers. There are about 45-50 dealers, motorway services operators and supermarkets in the UK working with Alvern across approximately 4,000 sites.
Chief operating officer Gordon Evans says his company works with Murco, Certas Energy and Jet to recruit dealers within their networks who wish to have AdNozzles on their sites, and there are dealers with a variety of other brands on their forecourts.
He adds: "We are always interested in recruiting new dealers to the network but as advertising is all about the audience we tend to look only for sites that are handling at least 3,500-4,000 petrol customers a week as our advertisers are looking for numbers to make their campaigns cost- effective. The other area we would look at when evaluating dealer sites is their location as well, to review whether we have a surplus of sites in any particular area."
Although AdNozzle predominantly works with larger groups he says it works with smaller dealers across about 100 sites.
Explaining his company’s service, he says: "We share revenues with the dealer from advertising placed on the AdNozzles. In addition, we maintain the units on each dealer site and provide replacement equipment when required. Feedback from the dealers is that they like the look of AdNozzles and that the advertising placed on them also adds some interest for customers, particularly as we focus on local advertisers as well as national brands."