The Northern Ireland and Northern England categories were hotly contested in the Forecourt Trader Awards. Amy Lanning catches up with the winners.

Northern Ireland: Up to 2.5mlpa - Conor McKibbin, Brennans Spa
Brennans Spar in Seaforde, County Down is no stranger to the Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards, having won prizes in the past four competitions.

And for very good reason. The site caters for all needs – whatever the shopping mission. Food to take away is available from the ‘Tastilicious Chip Van’,
and an in-store café with ample seating on an outdoor decked area serves tasty meals to eat on-site. A fully-stocked c-store with DVD rental and off licence satisfies the take-home market.

Customer service and store standards are vital to the site’s success. Owner Conor McKibbin says: “We’ve got a good team that works very hard on offering excellent customer service and high keeping standards on the shop floor.  Our motto is to treat customers how you would expect to be treated.

“We try to keep the place bright and clean and we’re constantly looking for new ideas and ways to improve the site.

Awards like these are terrific because they really encourage the staff. Success breeds success.”

Northern Ireland: 2.5mlpa plus - David Cox, Saintfield Road Service Station

Saintfield Road Service Station has established itself as the lifeblood of the local community in Lisburn, County Antrim. Following a £1.5m investment in a complete redevelopment in 2008, the site has gone from strength to strength, increasing average shop sales to almost £45,000 a week, and achieving a fuel volume of 4mlpa.

Owner David Cox (left) says continued investment is key to the site’s success. “You have to invest all the time – you have to keep the site in top condition.” Marketing and promotions are another priority. “Contrary to what some people think about petrol stations – that you can charge as much as you like – we are the opposite and go for the value message all the time. Big banners and posters on the forecourt communicate genuine value to the customer.”

Northern England: 2.5mlpa plus - Mohsin and Zuber Issa - Beehive Service Station

As well as being named Best Northern England Site, Euro Garages’ Beehive Service Station in Blackburn, Lancashire was crowned Forecourt Trader of the Year 2011. An interview with Zuber Issa – who operates Euro Garages with brother Mohsin (both pictured right) – in last month’s issue revealed how Euro Garages has grown from one leasehold site in Halifax to a 72-strong network.

Beehive is its flagship – and it’s easy to see why. The forecourt, which opened in the summer of 2010, sprawls across a large piece of land next door to the company’s new headquarters, which was completed this summer.

The site features a drive-thru Starbucks, Spar c-store, Subway and
flower shop. It’s immaculately operated and staff clearly take pride in their work. The forecourt is checked on a fourhourly basis to ensure it is always clean, tidy and in tip-top condition.

Northern England: Up to 2.5mlpa - Darren MacDonlad - Haughton Road Service Station

Haughton Road Service Station in Darlington, County Durham has been going great guns since a major shop refit in August 2009, converting a car showroom into a spacious Mace c-store. Shop sales are up 160% and are still growing.

The site, which is operated by Bishop Retail, features an in-store café, photo booth, cash machine, 30 parking spaces, LPG, jet wash, rollover car and valet facilities, and last autumn switched from BP to Harvest Energy. Darren MacDonald, operations director, says category management and the use of planograms have all been important in the success of the business. “We have been on a quest to become a c-store with fuel. There are a lot of chimney pots, a college and business park nearby so we need to provide a good convenience offer for lots of different shopping missions.”

Best Site with a licence to sell alcohol - Sponsor Heineken - Richard Cox, Primrose Garage

Top 50 Indie Kay Group’s Primrose Garage in Clitheroe, Lancashire, is making a big impact with its alcohol section. Alcohol sales make up 23% of full-margin shop sales and, with a 24-hour licence, 50% of all alcohol sales are sold during the night shift. Richard Cox, managing director of Kay Group says: “Despite shop sales in general having a tough time, our alcohol like-for-like sales are 7% up year-on-year.

“To negate noise and nuisance to our neighbours on busy nights – Saturday and Sunday – we operate with an open door and there are always two members of staff in attendance. In addition to the normal preventative measures to negate underage purchasing, we use an external company to conduct Challenge 25 audits and we take appropriate action if we fail. We are the second-highest performer for passing audits.”

Best Car Care & Lubricants Outlet - Sponsor CDG - James Kemp, Cromwell Services

Cromwell Services in Newark, Nottinghamshire is putting a lot of effort into car care, despite the category accounting for a relatively small percentage of store sales. But area manager James Kemp , believes it’s important to offer the full range of impulse, distress and valeting products.

“A lot of petrol stations have a limited car-care range but ours is a full range,” he says. “It’s always stocked to the hilt, well priced, clean and customer friendly. I think it’s reassuring to motorists that they don’t have to go to the automotive store to get things like bulbs and jump leads. General maintenance car care sales have gone down – probably because most people have breakdown cover – but the car valeting section is growing. People are still wanting to clean their cars at home.

Best Display of Chilled Food - Sponsor Ginsters - Jonathan & Rebecca James, Witchford Road Service Station

The fresh and chilled category plays a huge role at Witchford Road Service Station in Ely, Cambridgeshire – a former Forecourt Trader of the Year winner, and part of the James Graven network owned by Jonathan and Rebecca James (pictured centre left with awards host Mark Durden-Smith, sponsor Ginster’s channel controller Phil Eastham, and site manager Sarah Gray).

Fresh and chilled makes up around 25% of all store sales, and Jonathan James, operations director, says: “It’s a combination of things that make the category so successful – we’ve got a good supplier in Budgens; we use a lot of local suppliers; and we have an absolutely fantastic supervisor (Laura Kirby) in charge of it. Our doors on chillers allow us to light the fixture horizontally as well as vertically, which displays products really well, and we constantly experiment with the range.”

>> Find out more about the Forecourt Trader Awards