Fuel retailing has advanced considerably in recent years as consumers expect more from businesses. The offering of a retailer plays a large part in retaining customers, as well as attracting new ones; it’s becoming more and more common to find a supermarket in the shop of a fuel station. The Netherlands is taking huge steps by investing in innovation in forecourt retailing. Certain Texaco locations have paired themselves with Spar, forming a good alternative for consumers to the classic supermarket shopping. Having daily groceries for sale means that motorway forecourts become a destination for a larger number of consumers
BP petrol station is a good example of this. They currently have seven locations with Albert Heijn (AH), a supermarket chain, in lieu of the regular forecourt offering. In 2018, they announced the expansion of this strategy. It began two years ago along the A20 in at Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, and followed in Oostzaan, Rijswijk, Amsterdam, Nieuwegein and Deventer. Half of these locations are along motorways and the other half is along regional roads. The aim of these locations is to offer customers the ability to shop for daily needs 24 hours a day, anywhere on their commute. By becoming an alternative to supermarkets, forecourt retailing is strengthening its market and broadening the possible audience. These six locations are a part of a trial to see whether this model is compelling enough to expand.
Inside these shops, consumers can find the familiar surroundings of a supermarket, while catering to more ‘on-the-go’ meals. In AH the offering consists of one thousand three hundred products ranging from popular AH brands to staple BP products. The bakery is a prominent aspect; providing fresh, portable food, as well as adding a natural atmosphere to the shop. Designing an evening meal solution can be difficult in a forecourt but the industry understands there is a need to as more people commute for longer periods. The bakery can cater for hot meals such as burgers and sandwiches which facilities larger consumer choice.
The key aspect of BP and AH’s successful pairing is that it is modelled on the supermarket model rather than a forecourt. Integrating a forecourt model into a supermarket chain means that the familiar feeling of a supermarket is retained rather than trying to simulate a foreign atmosphere at a fuel station. Normal service station products are available at the customer demand for engine oil and air fresheners are still present.
Another aspect of the Netherlands’ investment in forecourt retailing comes from the self-service aspect. The aforementioned service station on the A20 is one of the first with self-scanning facilities available to customers looking to purchase products. It is not yet available for purchasing fuel but that advancement is on the horizon. There is a pilot programme in Nieuwerkerk and it will be decided whether or not to expand this method to dealer stations. BP and AH function in a way where the oil company franchises the supermarket chain, meaning the staff is employed by the oil company.
This method of forecourt retailing is proving itself to be successful as the demands on service stations continue to grow. If fuel retailers continue to meet the needs of commuting customers, this will be a promising step forward in motorway forecourts.