Like many independent retailers, Brian Weedon likes to sell local products as well as have a major brand name above his store.
The Oxfordshire businessman says this is one of the main reasons he recently switched to Best One, the symbol group of Bestway. Brian has run Hopcroft Service Station in Oxon for 39 years and his site is part of the community. So he thinks it’s important to stock produce from nearby businesses.
He says: "We have local suppliers for some of our food-to-go lines, such as sandwiches, pies, pasties and cakes. We also get bread from the bakery in nearby Kidlington. And we stock a selection of Oxford Fine Wines to supplement our alcohol offering. These wines are for special occasions and are generally a bit more expensive. But the company is local it supplies wine to the Oxford colleges and we like to use them."
According to Brian, he switched to Best One because it was "quite flexible" and "a bit more amenable to work with" than other companies. And it was the best option for his site financially.
Brian explains: "I just found Best One wasn’t too pushy. Also, its costings were good. You don’t have to put money up front to join or pay a fee every month like for some others. I also like the fascia we’re with Jet, so the blue and yellow work well together.
"Best One is very flexible. With the promotions you can either choose to take them or not, it’s up to you. We like to do quite a few promotions we definitely do quite a few more now than we did before. The three bottles of wine for a tenner offer, for example, is very popular in the off-licence. It’s a real footfall driver, and there are good deals on sweets."
Brian was previously with Palmer & Harvey, but switched to Best One at the end of last year. His main customers live in the surrounding villages such as Banbury and Chipping Norton, and many have been customers for years. The site is opposite the school bus stop so gets quite a lot of business from youngsters. Meanwhile, its location on the A4260 means it does well with hot drinks and newspapers for morning commuters, and alcohol in the evenings although the site is only open until 9pm on weekdays and 8pm on weekends.
One of its best sellers is wood and coal, supplied locally, and the site can sell about one tonne of coal and 100 bags of logs a week during winter.
Brian’s is definitely a family business. His wife Janet works in the office above the shop and looks after the accounts, while his sons James, 34, and Thomas, 33, help him run another business which they say is the largest breakdown vehicle recovery business in Oxfordshire. In addition, Brian also has a repairs garage and a workshop for classic and vintage car renovation and restoration. Brian himself started his career as an apprentice at a local garage his father before him had a garage and workshop. Brian later leased Hopcroft from Texaco. After trying to buy the site from Texaco many times he was finally successful about six years ago and refurbished the shop and pumps and changed to Jet.
Meanwhile, his long-term plan is to knock down the existing buildings and redevelop the whole site, including expanding the forecourt and shop. With the nearest supermarket about seven miles away, he feels confident there is plenty of opportunity for the future.
According to Best One controller James Hall, the Bestway symbol group currently has about 650 members, and is steadily adding new ones. He adds: "For the full calendar year we anticipate that we will have 40 petrol forecourt members, which is showing good growth this year. We like to think that retailers join us because of our ’working partnership’ approach rather than a ’dictatorial’ style that I often hear quoted from newcomers who have experienced this from other symbol groups. We are fortunate enough to have a number of executives working here who have actually run their own stores and they know the pitfalls and can bring real experience to the everyday issues that members have to endure in running a store."