Pumps are at the heart of the forecourt business and the choice of pump is crucial if business is to prosper. Inevitably, as technology improves, pumps become ever-more sophisticated – consumers are already getting used to seeing screens and hearing audio instructions as they fill up as well as using pay-at-pump facilities. As a result, retailers are faced with more choices than ever before, but should bear in mind that an all-singing, all-dancing pump won’t be the best choice for every site – the important thing is to choose the option that best suits the business, which can mean combining pumps with different facilities on one site. Unmanned pumps One of the most recent trends to affect pumps is the advent of chip & pin – many in the industry think this will lead to a marked change on the UK forecourt, with an increase in unmanned pumps that can be securely operated. Retail Logic’s marketing director Mark McMurtrie says: “Until now, unattended payment terminals have been a fraudster’s paradise. Without chip & pin there is nothing to prevent a fraudster from paying for fuel with a stolen card as there is no member of staff to authenticate a card or signature. Now that new integrated systems are available, retailers have a reliable method of verifying cardholders that will free them from the worry of being liable for fraud carried out with stolen cards. This will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of unmanned pumps and fast lanes.” And Torex’s managing director Billy Tank agrees. He says: “In the past few years, there has been a marked reluctance to invest in ‘legacy’ pay-at-the-pump in the lead up to chip & pin. Now that chip & pin is being rolled out, people are starting to look at the options of pay-at-pump again.” Vbi’s managing director Simon Hollingsworth says he has already seen an increase in demand for pay-at-pump, particularly from independents. “The outdoor payment terminal for unmanned sites has received much more interest from independents than in previous years where interest was primarily from multiples. “We are seeing interest especially from rural sites as one of the biggest costs of running a site is labour, so if fuel can still be sold without this cost, it’s good for the retailers. In addition, in some rural areas a grant is available to help keep forecourts open.” However, Gilbarco Veeder-Root’s UK marketing manager Marc Braun says pay-at-pump isn’t that big in the UK at the moment, partly because while it appeals to independents and supermarkets, oil companies have been hesitant to adopt it. “Oil companies need to get the balance right between pay-at-pump sites and pay-in-shop,” he says. “Pay-at-pump enables sites to be open 24-hours and increase the throughput of customers at busy times, but may impact on revenue from in-store purchases. “Companies have to think carefully about which sites will benefit most from pay-at-pump, and the impact of local competition as pay-at-pump provides a differentiator for time-poor customers wanting to fuel quickly without having to queue in store. “The answer for some sites may be to have CRINDs (card reader in dispenser) only at some pumps to get the best of both worlds. “Another thing to take into consideration is vandalism at unmanned sites – ‘at risk’ sites need to combine pay-at-pump with security measures such as remote CCTV monitoring.” But Mark McMurtrie says: “Although forecourt retailers typically want as many people as possible to shop in their convenience stores, they must also focus on their customers’ needs. This essentially means providing them with the choice of whether to pay at the pump or pay in store. “The self-service approach can reduce staff costs and enables motorists to fill up faster during busy times, increasing revenue and minimising drive-pasts.” And Billy Tank adds: “The arguments around shop sales will continue, but there are an increasing number of retailers who believe that pay-at-pump satisfies the requirements of those customers who are in a hurry to simply pay and leave, and thus helps to free the pump and the shop for other customers. In addition, retailers are starting to look seriously at the option of creating unmanned sites. It is possible that 2005 is the year when paying at the pump finally starts to gain a foothold on the UK forecourt.” Alternative fuels Another trend about to hit UK forecourts is the arrival of AdBlue, a reagent that is pumped into vehicles alongside diesel to reduce emissions. European legislation (Euro 4) says that from October 2006, commercial vehicles are only allowed to emit a certain amount of noxious fumes (2g/kwhr), so take-up of AdBlue is expected to be high (the rate of usage is around five litres of AdBlue to every 100 litres of diesel). From the retailer’s point of view, AdBlue will have to be offered at the pump alongside diesel if trucks, lorries and other commercial vehicles are to be catered for. This means installing a separate AdBlue nozzle next to or near to the diesel dispenser. “AdBlue will soon become very prevalent in the UK diesel marketplace,” says a spokesman at Tokheim, which has produced a new AdBlue dispenser. “Our AdBlue dispenser incorporates a heated nozzle section to eliminate the problem of the Adblue solution freezing, which is very important within the UK climate!” he adds. “AdBlue is really going to take off in the UK,” agrees Gilbarco Veeder-Root’s Marc Braun. “The truck manufacturers have already written to the pump industry outlining the need for AdBlue dispensers. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to add on to existing pumps.” Take-up of other alternative fuels, however, seems to have stalled. There are currently around 1,260 LPG filling stations in the country, according to the LPG Association and 117,000 vehicles using the fuel, but manufacturers say that demand is currently low. “There is not a huge demand in the UK at the moment,” confirms Braun. “The government’s announcement that it was to be taxed has really hurt demand. “Alternative fuels continue to grow but at their own pace,” he adds. “However, I have no doubt that they will become increasingly important alternatives to petrol and diesel especially if oil prices stay at current levels.” What’s new? Pump manufacturers have been busy incorporating the latest technology into new pumps. Tokheim, for example, has recently incorporated a touch-screen concept called Vidium Media into its dispensers. The company says the option will increase revenue by displaying adverts and special offers at the pump. The technology also allows customers to be guided when filling up through at-the-pump audio and video instructions. Vidium is available as an option for the Quantium T range, is retrofittable on Quantium and Quantium T ranges, while there are solutions for other types of dispensers on request. Vbi Retail Solutions also has a new touch-screen concept for pumps. The company says its Illumina Access+ outdoor payment terminal can be used to promote shop goods and other services and sell car-wash options at the pump. Like its sister product, Illumina Access (without the touch-screen), Illumina Access+ supports EMV smart cards and provides remote statistical analysis and remote diagnostics. Staying with outdoor payment terminals, Retail Logic has just launched an unattended solution called Smart-Switch to complement its chip & pin systems. Smart-Switch comprises a Dione pin pad and Retail Logic software in a modular kit and has received the latest certification for unattended payment terminals from EMVCo, the body that monitors the roll-out of chip & pin. Meanwhile, Smart Connect is a new concept from Gilbarco Veeder-Root that can be added on to existing dispensers. Launched in the UK this autumn, it allows retailers to connect to the forecourt from a headoffice location. It then offers remote information about alarms allowing maintenance to be more efficient, which consequently should mean less downtime. “Retailers can see things like the flow rate,” explains Marc Braun. “Therefore they can be more proactive, boosting the rate if they need to and so getting customers through quickly.” Gilbarco Veeder-Root also has a new pump – the Encore 510 is a new H-Frame multi-product dispenser with optional hose retraction instead of a hanging hose – which the company says is unique for an H-frame. Marc Braun says: “As with our flagship SK700 product, the Encore 510 offers the flexibility of adding on third-party CRINDs, either at production or via field-retrofit.” Another first for an H-frame, says the company, is that it meets disability standards for card-reader operation. It will be launched this summer. GVR has also recently reintroduced the 109 into the UK for use in the commercial market due to demand from retailers. Finally, OK Fuel is a tag that contains a miniature electronic device that identifies the type of fuel a particular vehicle should be using. A pump fitted with an OK Fuel reader will sense which type of fuel is required and, if the wrong fuel is being offered, it will issue a warning. Pump conversion kits are supplied and fitted free of charge. Tags are supplied in attractive retail blister packs – consumers who buy an ‘OK Fuel’ tag (rrp £4.99) will be likely to return to the same forecourt, says the company. Future developments will allow forecourt operators to identify OK Fuel users and implement reward schemes and demographic research.