Wholesale symbol group Premier is setting its sights on the forecourt sector with a new bespoke offer for petrol retailers. With 2,735 stores, Premier is the biggest symbol group in the UK, growing by 9% this year, following nine years of double-digit growth. It currently supplies just under 100 forecourt retailers, but is looking to the sector to help it achieve its goal of becoming a £1bn symbol business.

Steve Fox, sales director for retail, says: "Forecourts are a massive opportunity for Premier and a sector that has been under represented. The market forces are perfect now for the brand to work in the forecourt sector.

"Fuel margins are under pressure and we’re absolutely confident we can improve sales and profits for forecourt retailers. We’ve got a strong convenience offer, which we think is the best symbol proposition in the market, but we didn’t have a strong forecourt offer."

The new forecourt offer has been created around three key elements choice, price and service. The group’s Retail Best Sellers programme a range of 500 products that all convenience stores should stock has been streamlined for forecourts, with a greater focus on key forecourt products such as energy drinks and grab bags in the confectionery and snacking categories.

Merchandising principles are based on Premier’s ’good, better and best’ ranging, which ensures that stores stock a value product, standard version and more premium offer in each category.

New meal deals have also been launched for the forecourt sector, and these will also be rolled out to the convenience stores next year. These include a morning coffee and cake offer; a sandwich, drink and crisps deal at lunch; plus a pizza and large beer offer in the evening.

When it comes to price, creating a value perception is key, says Martin Swadling, head of Premier. "Value is hugely important at the moment. We’re confident that Premier has the best promotional package in the market; we’re great at giving a value perception to shoppers. We’re taking that value message by promoting offers from the perimeters of the forecourt as shoppers drive onto the forecourt; at the pump while they’re refuelling; and into the store.

"There’s a place for price-marked ranges as well," he adds. "Price-marking gives shoppers a great value perception, and we also have the Euro Shopper and Happy Shopper own-label ranges. These give fantastic value and quality to the shopper but deliver a 30%-plus margin for the retailer."

Forecourt retailers will benefit from local relationships with Premier reps via the 172 Booker cash and carry branches and the 100-strong sales and merchandising team nationwide. In addition, Premier point-of-sale material has been upgraded to make it more eye catching, and a bespoke launch package will be available to forecourts, including promotions such as ’spend X on fuel and get X off in-store’.

Tariq Iqbal, a partner in Top 50 Indie the Falcon Sharma Group, has been trialling the new Premier format at his Ward End Services forecourt in Birmingham for eight weeks. Switching from a BP Shop, he has seen shop sales increase by 60% and cash profit grow by 45%. He is now planning to roll out the fascia to seven more sites in his network.

"I’m really pleased with the forecourt concept, which fits today’s economic climate," says Tariq. "Landing the value message has never been so important today and Premier has helped me to do this. The Premier promotions are flying off the shelves and are driving footfall into my store.

"Price marking is also helping make more cash profit," he adds. "I was reluctant to bring price-marked products into store but their rate of sale has been fantastic. The local support from the Booker branch is tremendous with the convenience of delivery and the added advantage of being able to top up whenever we need to. I would certainly say Premier is now best placed to grow my business and I am in the process of bringing seven of my sites across."

Swadling says that with a bespoke forecourt offer, the symbol group expects to at least double its number of forecourt customers in the next two years. "We’re looking for quality retailers who want to work with us and build their business together," he says. "We need them to support the promotional programme because value is more and more important in all sectors. It’s important retailers deliver fantastic value and the promotional package is the best way to demonstrate that to customers."