The Lincolnshire Co-op has been responsible for some of the rather impressive forecourt openings with stand-out Co-op branding that have been making the news in recent times. It currently has seven forecourt operations and in the past two years has spent around £3.75m rebuilding four of them to create excellent operations that have been a great boost to business. Ironically it’s one of the smaller ones that has been proving the most impressive, according to Ian Bell, the organisation’s commercial support manager.
"Gibbet Nook Food Store and Filling station has been the star of the show," he says. "It’s quite a small store at 1,500 sq ft, but is doing as well - if not better than a number of our food stores. It’s a transient location so gets a lot of footfall, not just from local customers but passing traffic as well."
The Lincolnshire Co-op invested £990,000 to redevelop the site including improvements to the forecourt and a new purpose-built food store to replace the small kiosk, which stayed open while the store was being built. It now offers fresh and chilled food, beer and wine, hot food to go and a Costa Coffee machine. It also has an impressive 14 car parking spaces. The filling station on the junction of the A153 and B1192 near Coningsby shut for a month while underground equipment was replaced and new pumps installed, and re-opened in August 2018.
"It was doing OK for the first six months, but from February onwards it has really taken off," explains Ian. "Initially we were looking for around £20k a week in the shop because it was smaller than our other stores; but very quickly it was doing £25k and it’s now up to £30k most weeks and heading for £35k.
"We do the same offers as in all the other sites. People have tried it and keep coming back. It’s the location that helps it’s on a main road which comes inland through Lincolnshire, so is used by commuters and also day-trippers and weekenders en route to the coast; there is also a local caravan park. It is just on the outskirts of a village where we have a food store, but it hasn’t affected business there so we’ve added trade."
Fuel sales from the Gulf-branded forecourt have also been impressive with volumes prior to the redevelopment around 70-80k litres a week, but now regularly topping 100k litres a week and continuing to grow.
"We used to have two or three fuel suppliers, but have been supplied by Gulf across all our sites since 2017," says Ian. "It was the best deal on the table. Gulf is a known brand and people see it as better quality than supermarket fuel. Its heritage gives it strength and reassures customers."
The Lincolnshire Co-op currently has 84 sites in a combination of food stores and filling stations. As far as its forecourt operations go, it has what it calls five food stores with fuel; one large store with a filling station; and one standalone filling station with a small kiosk.
"We used to have about 10 forecourts, but in the past few years we have tended to either redevelop or close them," explains Ian.
"It depends whether we think a food store would work on the site or not. Our forecourt food stores are generally 3,000sq ft with a full food-to-go and convenience range so the same promotions on ambient, frozen and chilled products as we would have in our standalone food stores."
Other developments have included a £750,000 investment in the Winning Post Food Store and Filling Station in Carholme Road, Lincoln. The work included moving the Lincolnshire Co-op’s pharmacy into the store from a nearby location, meaning patients benefit from a larger dispensary, consultation room and seating. It also has parking and an accessible entrance.
Last December saw the opening of Lincolnshire Co-op’s Eastwood Road Food Store and Filling Station following a £450,000 spend. The most recent opening (last February) was its Whaplode site which underwent a £1.6m transformation, Other redevelopment projects are understood to be in the pipeline.
"Fuel is a great add-on to all the services we offer as a society," says Ian. "It’s another string to our bow, and very complementary."
Lincolnshire Co-op: is an independent co-operative society. Its purpose is to bring together ideas, energy and resources to make life better in communities.
It has: 280,000 members and 2,800 local colleagues in Lincolnshire and the surrounding counties and an elected board of directors who oversee the business.
The Society: provides valued services and supports the local economy from 215 outlets across its trading area which, apart from seven filling stations, includes food stores, post offices, travel branches, funeral homes, coffee shops, a florist, a crematorium and community libraries.It also owns flats, houses and commercial premises. Local good causes benefit through its Community Champions scheme.