The NEC was the place to be last month, when visitors flocked to the International Forecourt & Fuel Equipment (IFFE) Show. Event director Matthew Butler explains: "Visitor feedback has been excellent. Petrol retailers praised the exhibition for being the one place where they could catch up with important suppliers under one roof. There was specific praise for all the equipment on show; retailers found this really useful.

"Exhibitors too were full of praise for the show’s networking opportunities and the access it gave them to new leads. Many we spoke to reported being rushed off their feet - but in a good way as they had gained some solid leads. And some exhibitors took the opportunity to re-book for next year’s show - which is great news.

One of the big draws was the presence of several oil companies. Retailers had the opportunity to discuss supply contracts with Murco, Pace Petroleum and Harvest Energy, which all had impressive stands.

The race car on the Pace stand attracted particular attention. Pace is one of the UK’s largest distributors and retailers of petroleum products, and is now part of the MRH (GB) Group (number one in our Top 50 Indies league table 2008). The group operates more than 280 company owned retail sites and acts as a wholesale supplier to around 140 independent fuel retailers. The group is responsible for supplying some 4% of the retail motor fuel sold in the UK. But it’s not just about fuel supply, Pace offers retailers help to develop shop sales through its FACS Marketing services.

Also actively recruiting new dealers was Murco, which supplies more than 400 sites in the UK. It claims to have one of the most flexible dealer agreements as well as a progressive shop development campaign.

Meanwhile, Harvest Energy claims to be the largest independent manufacturer and supplier of motor fuels in the UK. It has supplied the retail sector since 1995 and for independent fuel retailers it offers a comprehensive forecourt package, from branding to fuel supply, with a dedicated office and field-based support team.

== Drought Buster ==

On the car wash front Karcher was out in force in the UK for the first time since its acquisition of Atlantis International, the Loughborough-based manufacturer and distributor of vehicle wash and water recycling solutions.

Peter Spencer, managing director of Atlantis, continues to lead the company under Karcher’s new ownership.

The company used the show to launch its new System 225 Drought Buster, which provides flexible water reclamation for rollover car wash machines. The system can be run as a ’partial’ - providing recycled water for the washing processes and mains water for the rinse process.

Alternatively, during a drought, the system can be switched over to drought mode. Working in conjunction with a drought wash programme on the car wash, the system will dose in only the mains water top-up allowed under the drought order. The amount of mains water can be adjusted to meet whatever future mains water limit is implemented. Reclamation is up to 95%. It arrives ready mounted on a plinth for ease of installation. Starting price is between £7,000 to £12,000.

== Fully equipped ==

Retailers were able to learn about developments in the pumps sector with Tokheim and Gilbarco Veeder-Root. Both companies’ stands showed their latest pump designs.

Dresser Wayne showed its new pump, the recently-launched Global Ovation iX fuel dispenser. Designed with retailers’ marketing opportunities in mind, it offers multi-media features for advertising and in-store promotions. The first Global Ovation iX is expected to be operating in the UK later this year.

Also exhibiting was German company Scheidt & Bachmann. It was showing its high-tech Clou MZ 7000 pump dispenser, which it claims is the "smallest petrol station in the world". The Clou offers pay-at-pump facilities and also has entertainment on screen - including online news, traffic information and ads for services available at the site, such as car wash offers and special deals. The Clou should be available to UK retailers by the second half of 2008 - see our pumps feature on page 27 for details.

Meanwhile, Torex Retail Holdings showcased its global petroleum and convenience solution portfolio, which includes point of sale and back office systems for handling both wet and dry stock, specifically developed for the petroleum and convenience retailer with integration into a new digital dashboard. Also on display was the Torex Outdoor Payment Terminal and Petrol 24/7 alert system, showing how Torex can manage operational needs from tank to bank.

Car care is obviously still a key part of the forecourt mix, and Croydon-based David Franklin Ltd - whose director Craig Qizilbash describes the company as the UK’s number one carded air freshener manufacturer - put on a very colourful display of Pongo air fresheners of all shapes, colours and scents.

Other show highlights included Subway, which used its stand to make a selection of fresh subs for visitors - making it one of the most popular stands at the show. The chain, which already has more than 50 outlets in petrol stations and c-stores in the UK and Ireland, says it is actively seeking more interested businesses.

Finally Preston-based North West Books, which specialises in books, maps, diaries and calendars, is hoping to make greater inroads into the forecourt sector. A spokesman for the company says: "Our dedicated fleet of van merchandisers service major retail groups, independents, forecourts and convenience retailers nationwide. We have shown spectacular results with many of our customers, and increases in sales revenue in excess of 100% are not unusual."


=== CRS Highlights ===

? Visitors to Simply Coffee’s stand at CRS (right) enjoyed more than 15,000 cups of coffee. The company accepted donations for the coffee and as a result raised hundreds of pounds for Children in Need.

? HL Display has branded CRS a "resounding success" after generating 600 solid leads in just four days.

? Verco used its stand to preview a new generation of its popular open-chill Cambridge cabinet and promote the latest Inline Merchandiser. According to Verco, the new Cambridge range will be fitted with the latest rotary scroll compressors and features a low-front design of 410mm. The range will be available initially in 1.95m and 2.5m widths and will keep its small footprint of 677mm.

The open-chill Inline Merchandiser cabinet is designed to fit within the modules of an ambient shelving system and offers high efficiency with low running costs.

? Spar was giving visitors a taste of its new Kitsu noodle bar, a hot food-to-go concept where noodles are stir fried in-store with a variety of ingredients. Options include Singapore noodles - stir fried egg noodles, vegetables, chicken and prawns in an oriental sauce, Szechuan beef and BBQ Peking duck. The rrp is £3.49 per serving. The ingredients are delivered by Spar, and cooked on site on the specially-designed noodle bar.


=== Car wash campaign group meets at iffe ===

Members of the Car Wash Campaign Group (CWCG) used their presence at the International Forecourt and Fuel Equipment (IFFE) show to recruit new members. The group, soon to be renamed the Car Wash Association, held an open meeting on the second day of the event at the NEC in Birmingham to raise awareness of its campaign to close down illegal hand car washes.

The meeting was chaired by Forecourt Trader editor Merril Boulton, and saw a panel of three representatives of the group - retailer Robert Fraser, ACS public affairs manager Shane Brennan, and Wilcomatic managing director Kevin Pay - explaining why the campaign was so crucial to the industry.

Show visitors and audience members got involved with the debate, which centred on the need for a level playing field in the sector with all car wash operators required to abide by the same rules, such as environmental laws for disposing of used water and chemicals.

Brennan explained how the campaign had grown and what it had achieved since its launch. Audience members heard how the CWCG had been contacting MPs and government representatives to raise awareness of the issues and to lobby for stricter laws on the car wash industry to protect legitimate businesses. It had also been helping retailers who needed advice on how to close down illegal hand car washes in their area.

The panel urged retailers to join the campaign and visit its stand at the show, adding that the group needed to increase its membership and step up pressure on the government.


=== Diary Date ===

IFFE 2009 will

take place at the

Birmingham NEC,

from March 1-3.