Recovery for the Forecourt Industry
Current Challenges Within the Forecourt Industry
Post COVID19 recovery for the forecourt industry – the future is bright. In the ever-evolving environment of the forecourt sector, the past 18 months have seen some even more challenging times for fuel service providers.
Lockdowns, working from home, and travel restrictions have all taken their toll on forecourt retailers, while COVID19 restrictions were implemented, lifted, then put in place again – it has been impossible to predict or plan when it comes to fuel sales.
The Irish Examiner has reported dramatic reductions in fuel sales due to the pandemic, which in some cases have been less than half of their 2019 value.
Of course, as the vast majority of fuel retailers also provide an additional convenience store service, this decline in fuel sales has also shown a knock-on effect on the retail side of the forecourt business.
Where consumers are purchasing less fuel, there has also been a decline in those small impulse purchases we all like to pick up on our way to the counter. Local convenience shopping can account for up to half of total sales revenue for forecourts in some areas.
With the added complication of COVID19’s disruption to supply chains, staffing issues, and the cost of additional safety measures, forecourt retailers all over the country are breathing a sigh of relief as Ireland takes its first steps back towards normality.
Always a Silver Lining – Opportunities to Improve Your Business
Forecourts offering additional services during this time have fared better than those offering fuel only, or those with only basic store facilities.
Many retailers have taken advantage of this period of low fuel demand to review their historical sales data and identify key business areas, in order to make improvements to their forecourt stores and services. It has been a good opportunity to look ahead and find innovative ways to ‘future-proof’ their business strategy.
Some business owners have taken a step back to look at their fundamental setup, things like their visual impact, making simple improvements such as:
- Cleaning up their shop space
- Updating signage
- Replacing lighting
- Renewing shelving
- Upgrading refrigeration
- Improving equipment
- Enhancing accessibility
Others have focused on adding useful services such as:
- Bill Pay
- Enhanced nicotine product vending
- Contactless card services
- Online and web services
- Laundry services
- Cash points
Despite the lack of revenue, a surprising number of retailers have chosen to look to the future with larger projects.
Some forecourts have been arranging full store or fuel pump refits, creating extensions for dedicated coffee docks and hot food areas, extended outdoor seating areas, car washes, or the addition of self-service pumps or hybrid and electric vehicle stations.
It has been a great time to make temporarily disruptive improvements while demand has been reduced, and forecourts are less busy.
Post COVID-19 Recovery – Looking Forward
As fuel sales begin to increase, it remains important for forecourt retailers to increase their focus on services in addition to fuel sales when looking to build solid future strategies.
While fuel services will be around for a long time, the shift in consumer attitudes in favour of electric and hybrid vehicles continues to grow. Dynamic forecourt businesses must be prepared for increased demand in high power charging points, and space requirements, and be ready to take advantage of the need for customer facilities and entertainment while their vehicle charges.
Consumers already expect to find convenience, food, and coffee facilities within their local forecourt, particularly in rural areas. In the future, we can expect increased sales percentages arising from these additional services.
Forecourt retailers can continue to build on the ‘shop local’ mindset that consumers are now fully on board with, where the impact of COVID19 on the global economy has really reminded people of the importance of supporting their local community.
As we look to the future, now is the opportunity to create solid, future-proof business strategies by broadening services and exceeding consumer expectations.
Who are we?
Retail Solutions is a market-leading EPOS provider with over 25 years of business experience. Our leading sectors are convenience stores, supermarkets, forecourts, and pharmacies.
We are dedicated to providing your store with the most up-to-date and reliable point of sale hardware, along with software management tools to help you manage your business effectively.
To find out more about what we do, get in touch to chat with one of our knowledgeable consultants:
About the author:
Susan McGuire has been with Retail Solutions for over 6 years, and during that time has had roles in the areas of Maintenance, Finance, & Marketing. You can follow her on LinkedIn!