There’s a new name on the pole sign at Geoff Harland’s B&M Harland forecourt in Pickering, North Yorkshire. And although it’s a name well known throughout the forecourt industry, it’s the first time that it’s appeared as branding on fuel. Supplied by Harvest Energy, B&M Harland has been offering Spar-branded fuel since August, and it’s already proving to be a great success.
Says Geoff: "Our fuel sales dropped by 30% over the past five years but they’re now up 22% year-on-year, and running at around 120,000 litres per week."
Geoff puts the previous drop in sales down to the usual suspects: people driving less; more economical cars; and people shopping around more for value.
And he says his previous fuel supplier BP did little to help. "There was a lack of partnership there. It’s so refreshing to now be dealing with a company that’s really working in partnership with you, to share your problems and help with resolutions."
When deciding to go with Harvest Energy and Spar, there were a number of factors that persuaded Geoff that the Spar brand was the way to go. "We wanted more independence in the running of the business, and were frustrated by the costs associated with the major oil companies," says Geoff.
"The personal touch and real feel of partnership are important elements, as Spar and Harvest both worked with me to develop my entire offering shop and forecourt," he says.
"I can pick up the phone any time and speak to Spar or Harvest Energy."
His customers obviously spotted the change in fuel and asked Geoff and his team about it.
"We gave them the leaflets we had explaining about the quality of the fuel and they’ve been happy with it," he says. "And they don’t appear to miss the Nectar points either."
Geoff says the pricing is very competitive, which allows him to compete in the market and make good margins.
The Harvest Energy deal enables him to sell fuel at 4-5ppl less than when he was with BP.
The Harland forecourt business was started in 1950 by Geoff’s parents. It offered Mobil branded fuel until Mobil merged with BP in the ’90s.
The strength of the international Spar brand appealed to Harland and it now features prominently across the site on the canopy, pumps, pole sign and shop fascia which Geoff says has already brought major benefits to his business.
"We are really excited about the sales figures so far, as they are far better than we could have ever imagined," says Geoff. "I am exceedingly happy and the public has already really accepted the changes."
Geoff used the change in exterior branding to make some alterations in-store too. As a result he says staff report that the customers are purchasing more. "They say it’s quite noticeable that shoppers are going out with bigger and more bags. That can only be down to the new layout and products."
After the first four weeks of trading with the new branding, shop sales are up by approximately 20% a week.
Harvest Energy and Spar first revealed the branded forecourt concept, which is designed to help convenience retailers compete against the multiples and major oil companies, in April.
Mark Steven, Spar UK business development controller, comments: "I am delighted that Geoff has taken on our Spar-branded forecourt concept, as he now has access to one of the most competitive fuel supply deals in the market.
"The alliance offers retailers a host of benefits, and we are looking forward to opening new Spar-branded forecourts in the near future."
Says Geoff: "This is a great new start for my business and I’m excited about the future with Spar."