Nick and Jonathan Fraser (left to right): We think of our forecourts as shops with pumps, rather than the other way round

Cousins Nick and Jonathan Fraser are investing in their forecourt shops and valeting, and are on the look out for ‘dry’ locations, as well as acquiring neighbouring land to expand exisiting sites. This is their medium-term plan to futureproof their third generation family business, celebrating its 70th anniversary this September.

From February to September this year the pair, who have taken the reins from their fathers, are refurbing their five Fraser’s Budgens co-branded outlets – in Marlborough, Wiltshire, Three Mile Cross in Reading, Berkshire, and Yarnton, Witney and Carterton in Oxfordshire – having re-signed a three year deal with the convenience brand last summer.

“We are going through a rigorous upgrade programme with shopfitters and our supplier Budgens, and making changes where we see fit, improving layouts, food to go and internal and external imagery, as well as bringing in new areas,” says Nick, who joined the business 24 years ago, aged 21, after leaving his management trainee role at M&S.

The Frasers say that with uncertainty in how the fuel sector will develop in coming years they are developing their existing BP sites by acquiring neighbouring land where they can, and diversifying their portfolio into other business areas. They are mindful of following in the footsteps of their grandfather who they say was “way ahead of his time” having introduced an instore butcher’s, bakery, florist and cafe onto a local forecourt before the concepts had become fashionable.

“At the moment our forecourts are still profitable and excellent businesses to run, but there are question marks over where forecourts will be in 10 years’ time with fuel,” says Nick. ”We are essentially looking at new sites potentially without fuel, with valeting, a convenience store, good parking and EV thrown into the mix,” he adds. 

Recently the business acquired a pub, part of a protectionist move to control what happens to a plot of land opposite their forecourt in Three Mile Cross. They are taking on a tenant to run what is their first hospitality business, and are developing the site to offer half a dozen housing lets for self-employed contractors in the area.

Carwashing is a big part of the Frasers’ plans, having introduced jet wash centres under canopy at three sites, with its third having gone live in March at the Brize Norton forecourt in Carterton. They have invested over £1m on the Brize Norton valeting centre which includes two Washtec rollover carwashes and a covered area of six Adriateh jet washes, and also two five-in-one Multique machines with air, vac, screenwash, fragrance and back to black tyre polish. They also spent around £1.5m on purchasing land next to the site to give them space for the cleaning equipment.


The Frasers have invested over £1m in valeting equipment at Brize Norton

“Carwashing is proven. We have found very good partners to work with and reliable equipment,” says Nick. ”If we can provide the best out there by investing in it and upgrading it makes a difference.

”There are not the glut of handwashes there was four years ago and if we can offer a very good alternative there does seem to be a very big appetite for people to be washing their own cars and they take a lot of pride in it,” he adds. 

The Brize Norton site will be re-launched this summer as the Frasers’ flagship site, with changes to the shop making the most of the opportunity provided by the new valeting centre. “It will have everything bar a Post Office,” says Nick. “There is a half acre valeting centre, 30 parking bays and a 2,500sq ft shop.”

By moving the original carwash from the side of the shop, there is space to put the Subway into that area and reconfigure the interior to include a walk-in chilled beer cellar and also to introduce a “good size” staff area.

”Brize Norton is opposite RAF Brize Norton and the squaddies will appreciate having a greater choice of beers,” says Jonathan, who joined the business 14 years ago aged 28 after a career in sales at Pernod Ricard. “But we are most excited on being able to give our staff a nice area to have their lunch, with a fridge, providing better working conditions for them.”

Investment in technology is also keeping the business ahead of the game. It introduced solar panels last March, costing around £70,000 at each of its sites including canopy strengthening. They are providing around 20% of the forecourts’ electricity on average per year, and are expected to pay for themselves within four years.

Electronic shelf edge labels are being rolled out across the five sites in the next couple of months. And the business has also recently introduced a Madic evoPOS back office system, which will allow it to integrate its loyalty club with its tills and to offer targeted promotions. It is a big opportunity, with 15,000 of its customers already signed up to the programme, with offers currently including half price car washes on Monday to Wednesday, 2p a litre off fuel on Sunday, and 20% off coffee vouchers. 


The Frasers are refurbing their five Fraser’s Budgens co-branded outlets

Acquiring neighbouring land to existing sites will also allow the Frasers to introduce next generation fuel, giving the business longevity throughout the next decade, says Jonathan. They are already looking into emerging areas, having introduced AdBlue at one pump at Brize Norton a few weeks ago, and they are looking into electric vehicle (EV) charging and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) on pump.

“We will be offering EV pretty soon, but it takes a lot of consideration as it takes away from parking which is so important,” says Jonathan.

Hydrogen would be a more straightforward and less expensive fuel of choice for the future, say the cousins, but is some way off being widely adopted they concede. And HVO could easily be introduced at its Marlborough site, they say, in place of the red diesel currently sold there. They will watch how fellow retailer David Charman gets on with having the cleaner alternative to diesel on pump before making a decision. 

“We would love the industry to go hydrogen, but you need the customer base to move towards it before making the jump,” says Jonathan.

“I personally think there will be business in fuel and that we will be more a commuter hub where we will provide different means to get from A to B such as hydrogen, and EV, whatever proves best, and the shop will evolve,” says Jonathan.

Nick agrees: ”Three of five of our stores are the local shop, and the shop is a huge part of the business. We have a successful business without fuel. We were always drilled by our fathers to think of running convenience stores with pumps, rather than pumps with a shop, and so parking is vital for us. Usually the amount of parking we provide will determine the success of the store. Covid taught us that you need a full convenience range.

“I think we will be hugely shop focused, still with that large valeting aspect and lots of parking. Over the next couple of years we will acquire neighbouring property to get the sizes of forecourts we need to add EV and new technologies. I think shops on small plots will struggle.”