Nisa Retail is the latest of the symbol operators which, having realised the potential of the fuel retailing sector, wants to significantly raise its forecourt profile.

But unlike the other symbol brands, Nisa intends to push its name on the pole sign as a fuel retailer, not just in the forecourt shop. To that end Nisa recently announced an agreement with Greenergy, the UK’s leading supplier of petrol and diesel.

"Many of our retail members operate petrol stations with on-site stores and so we’re delighted to be able to support these members by extending our offering from the store to the forecourt," explains Raj Krishan, retail development director at Nisa.

"Through this exciting partnership with Greenergy, we’re now able to offer our members fuel supply under a choice of forecourt brands, including the Nisa and Loco symbol, with the operating efficiencies and high service levels for which Greenergy is renowned."

In a nutshell it means that Nisa can offer fuel under the Nisa brand, using Greenergy as the method for providing it. "It’s a natural progression. We wanted to offer the complete package, which included fuel as well as supplying food, groceries and impulse products," explains Krishan.

"It’s about closing the gap, giving retailers the full one-stop solution, as opposed to being able to do some of it, but the retailer has to go elsewhere for the rest of it. It’s also a way of making sure we expand the brand."

Leaps and bounds

Krishan says Nisa has really come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. "On forecourts we now want to complete the link by having the Nisa brand on the pole sign, as opposed to having another brand and potential confusion for the customer from the pole sign to the actual store. It allows us to take the strong value and quality message from the stores and roll it out to the forecourt as well."

In determining the impact of the Nisa name as a fuel brand, the symbol operator undertook some consumer research with shopper insight specialist Him early last year.

It revealed that seven out of 10 people who shopped at a forecourt weren’t particularly conscious of the brand. They were more concerned about the value offer, ie the price of fuel, as opposed to the brand above it.

"Clearly it’s not going to be right for all locations," says Krishan. "But there’s a majority opinion there, and we believe it will work. You’ve only got to look at the multiples and see how they perform they’ve made a success of own-branded fuel and we take encouragement from that. Customers don’t go to a supermarket forecourt because they think Sainsbury’s, for example, is a great fuel provider, they go because the location is convenient and the price of fuel is competitive."

In fact, far from being put off by the presence of the Nisa logo at the pumps, Krishan says the brand’s offering of quality, value and convenience would be reflected in the fuel brand. "It gets wrapped up in the whole offering. The shop and the forecourt offer will complement each other."

Well established

Krishan believes Nisa should work well on the forecourt because of its well-established offering of food, groceries and services within the convenience sector: "There has been a massive explosion of convenience retailing on forecourts. A growing number of fuel retailers are looking at their forecourt shops and saying ’we need to develop this’. We’ve got the perfect fit, not just with the Nisa brand and subsequent brands such as Loco. But, as part of the research we conducted last year, we also looked at the market in terms of shopper segmentation, and we’ve developed three formats for forecourts as well."

The three main formats include: convenience high on shop sales, low on fuel, such as in a neighbourhood area; transient high on fuel, but the shop is more food on the move, meal for tonight and impulse destination; essentials the one in the middle, a sort of hybrid which is neither one or the other, it’s actually both.

Says Krishan: "This means we’ve got a good range of offers that we can take to the forecourt dealers and operators and deliver some value."

Eclectic mix

There are already around 130 forecourts with Nisa-branded stores under an eclectic mix of fascias. But since it embarked on its fully focused forecourt shop offering a few months ago, Nisa has attracted interest from 30 new operators. The recent Greenergy announcement led to the phone ringing non-stop, stresses Krishan.

"We feel we have a very credible offer. I’d be very disappointed if we weren’t into double digits in terms of the number of sites we bring on to the fuel offer by the end of this calendar year.

"Dealers have been receptive to the plans and there is real excitement among the operators at the prospect of a high-quality, branded option for Nisa forecourt members.

"We envisage this development as being very successful and have already experienced great interest in the concept."