Our culture is becoming increasingly convenience driven. Convenience means different things to different people but as far as forecourt retail is concerned, it’s an opportunity to look firmly beyond fuel – a needs-based, ‘distress purchase’ – to all manner of non-fuel, from tobacco and meals to go to grocery, dine-in, work from spaces and adjacent services including laundry, pharmacy and car wash and repair. According to the HIM & MCA Insight UK Forecourt Market Report 2020, only 19% of forecourt shoppers cite fuel as their main reason for visiting a forecourt.
A comparison with the pub sector is interesting: as fuel purchases continue to decline as a proportion of overall sales, those forecourts that have invested in the consumer experience will be well positioned to capitalise on the trend for convenience, just as food-led and gastropubs have succeeded by attracting a broader spectrum of customers with a higher average per head spend. Those that continue to rely on fuel – like wet-led pubs that depend on drinks sales – without attending to changing customer expectations are more vulnerable to obsolescence.
Our work for Prio in Portugal that illustrate this insight piece shows how investment in brand, store design and signage is a core pillar of differentiation for forecourt retailers. Through clever use of retail space, including in the smallest, 15m sq format, customers always have the choice they’re looking for and we’ve supplemented the food to go offer with seating in the larger for the four formats. Not every customer wants to eat in the car without the opportunity to wash their hands before and after.
Examples of investment in forecourt design include BP Australia’s modern concept store, with its yellow and charcoal accents and wooden ceiling panels and in Austria, a new concept for SPAR Express has wood panelling, clear signage and a floor plan that is easy to navigate. In the UK, Applegreen’s Lisburn store with an accessible mezzanine floor and a lounge won the Forecourt Trader of the Year Award in 2017 while its Spalding site won Best Design & Development in 2019. Gridserve’s recently submitted plans for a 41-bay EV charging site on the A1(M) in Hertfordshire will play host to a high-speed internet lounge alongside coffee and retail offers.
KPMG’s Fuel Forecourt Retail Market report predicts that within 10-15 years, retail and F&B sales will be contributing 40% to forecourts. The winners will be the operators who can exert more ‘stopping power’ than their rivals by providing the services, environments and experiences that consumers want.

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