One year on from moving to the Gulf brand, and with son Ollie driving the business forward, Malcolm Blake is ready to take a setp back
It’s now more than a year since Oasis Services, and independent service station located on the outskirts of Hull, East Yorkshire, moved its fuel supplies to Gulf after over 20 years with Jet. It was a difficult decision at the time for owner Malcolm Blake but has proved to be a very good one for the future of the business.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Jet after so long,” explains Malcolm who built the site as a greenfield development way back in 1988. “I’d been thinking about it for a couple of years and when I started to speak to the Gulf guys, I was impressed by their approach. I wanted to be part of something special again and when I met Gulf’s Head of Dealer Sales he talked me through the new Gulf proposition, how it was being redefined into a consultative process designed to improve a Dealers profitability. Words are easy, Gulf and Certas have backed it by their actions and to date it’s working on every level.”
In switching to Gulf, Oasis Services became the first dealer site with the full-concept new Gulf branding and the first to access Certas Energy’s third party preferential supplier arrangement with Spar.
“The new image is very popular with our regulars and gives us a much stronger presence on the A165 than in the past,” continues Malcolm. “Our fuel volumes rose pre Covid by around 5%, a combination of the new forecourt image and the redevelopment of our forecourt building to create a modern 1,700sq ft convenience store. We took advantage of Gulf’s tie up with Spar and it has transformed our business. Our shop turnover has grown by 230% and is holding up well.”
Malcolm’s son Oliver recently came on board as operations manager, his sales background proving invaluable. The convenience store is now so popular with both locals and transient visitors that work is already underway to add another 330sq ft to the shop and introduce Spar’s Daily Deli to the mix.
“Our current offering is comprehensive and includes a huge chilled section, food to go, off license and Costa Coffee,” says Oliver. “There is a real demand in the area for food on the go and once the Daily Deli is up and running we will be able to serve fresh bread, a wider variety of hot snacks, pasties and baguettes. We’ll also introduce a delicious range of donuts!”
Alongside the huge benefits derived from their Spar convenience store, Malcolm and Ollie have utilised Gulfs third party supplier arrangements to save around £2k a year on electricity bills and more than doubled margins on LPG by switching to Certas Energy’s sister company, Flogas.
“These value-added arrangements are having a very significant impact upon our profitability,” continues Oliver. “We are now working with Gulf to grow sales of Endurance, Gulf’s premium grade fuel. These higher margin products currently accounts for around 7% of our fuel sales and we aim to drive these up to at least 15%. In collaboration with Gulf we are about to launch a strong marketing drive with 1ppl off fuel and £5 to spend in the shop, utilising Gulfs forecourt loyalty scheme, Oomph. Oomph is a very agile loyalty platform that allows us to engage with and reward our regulars and drive up average purchases. We can cross promote between forecourt and shop, incentivising shoppers with money off fuel and visa versa. With so many new faces coming into our store over the past five months, the timing of the Oomph launch could not be better.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Oasis Services has become a preferred destination for locals looking to shop in safe confines and without the hassle of queues and over busy carparks.
“Before lockdown we had already introduced a range of measures to improve hygiene levels and reduce risk,” continues Oliver. These included restricting fuel customers to using our 24 hour outside payment terminal, re configuring the shop to improve both flow and space and introduce clear informative signage. Our early proactivity paid dividends;
Oasis soon became associated with safe and relaxed shopping. We were able to take 6 people comfortably in the shop with parking for 17 cars. I think many new customers were surprised that the quality of our products, our prices and our promotions were at least as good as the supermarkets. We may not have the full supermarket range but our shoppers are happy with our choice of products and our pricing, avoiding crowds and enjoying the experience. The challenge for us now, as restrictions ease, is to keep hold of this newly acquired customer base and provide them with compelling reasons not to return to the supermarkets. Oomph will play an important role in this.”
Oliver has overseen the transition to CBE software which is making stock management and analysis much easier and with greater effectiveness than previously. In addition, he is adding two new full time members of staff to the current team of 13 to coincide with the opening of the Daily Deli. He is also considering an extension to opening hours - currently 6am to 9pm - and a continuation of home deliveries via telephone for the those in the community that are unable to journey out. The scheme was well received and popular during lockdown and has the support of every member of staff.
“We’ve a great team at Oasis, all local people, very loyal, hardworking and committed to the success of the business,” enthuses Malcolm. “Add to that the depth of experience and support that we are receiving from both Spar and Gulf and the way Ollie is driving the business forward and I’d say our future is in very good hands. The dinosaur can now start to take more of a back seat role and I’m quite happy with that!”