The world divides into the reactive and the proactive. Sebastian Nonis, who runs Forfar Road Service Station in Dundee, is not the sort to take things lying down. I know this because I have a file This Thick on my desk illustrating the lengths that he will go to promote his business/raise funds for the community and draw attention to his own situation when required.
Last October it was very much required. Sebastian had worked at the Texaco-owned site (which was leased by Malthurst Retail) at Forfar for five years and thought it a very good site. When Texaco decided to pull out of Scotland, the site was offered as part of a package of 22 sites to BP. Since BP didn’t want Forfar, Texaco decided to demolish it. At this point Sebastian (who had been Texaco’s best tenant dealer site in its final year there) made a bid for the business and was given three months to get the purchase arranged.
The bank manager was interested in supporting the move – especially if Sebastian could show that any future branding would be top-notch – as the site has a list of assets that any operator would covet. It’s the last service station on the way out of Dundee en route to Aberdeen with the next services 48 miles away and it’s just 15 minutes from Glarnis Castle. The site’s volume is 60,000-70,000 litres a week and the shop turns over between £9K and £10K a week, excluding VAT and fuel.
Sebastian set his cap for BP and started firing off letters requesting supplies from same which would also give his customers access to Nectar points. He even outlined a commercial that he had already discussed with his local radio station singing the praises of BP/Nectar and pointing out that, in Dundee, it was BP pretty well wherever you pointed your car.
BP didn’t want to know. This refusal obviously posed a problem. The only other big name in the area, Shell, wouldn’t supply him because it has a station just up the road. Sebastian wrote to his MP, the local residents’ association, the Evening Telegraph, the Federation of Small Businesses and Forecourt Trader magazine. He quoted BP’s retail director Graham Sims who said in our August issue that BP would in future be looking for “independent dealers who are a force for good in their local community and run a credible offer”.
I spoke to BP’s fuel operations manager Peter Molloy, who had signed the letter refusing supplies to Forfar, no reason given. He said that he had subsequently spoken to Sebastian and given him reasons. He couldn’t supply Forecourt Trader with BP’s criteria to become a retail customer.
So, there it was in late November. Tentatively, Sebastian had also spoken to Q8 and Jet but wasn’t sure about the former and wasn’t getting much feedback from the latter.