Ireland’s Forecourt & Convenience Retailer speaks to Akash Aggarwal, owner of Western Service Station Applegreen Ennis about his successful site in the west of Ireland.
Ennis, the biggest town between Galway and Limerick, borrows something valuable from each.
The youth and artistic exuberance of the northern city can be felt in an evening’s musical meander around the town’s cobbled streets. Meanwhile, the morning hubbub of Ennis’s thrumming commercial centre is like a microcosm of rush-hour Limerick’s industrial busyness.
The sprawling town is ambitious and inventive, and remarkably stuffed with American tourists. The traditional music, bright shopper-friendly streets, and café culture hide a hard-working core that has kept this town from being dwarfed entirely by its two neighbouring giants.
Part of this commercial zing can be seen in the large industrial parks that have opened around its circumference, and it’s here that Akash Aggarwal taken his Western Service Station forecourt under the wing of Applegreen.
The site, in Ennis’s eastern-baring Quin Road, is within shouting distance of Tracklands Business Park; a viscous mix of pre-fab buildings teeming with enterprise and ambition.
Much like Akash then, who owns three further Applegreen sites under his company, Western Garages Limited. These are located in Old Church Street, Athenry; Chapel Lane, Drumgoold, Enniscorthy; and Kingscourt, Dublin Road, Co Cavan.
“We opened the Ennis site in 2009 and joined Applegreen at the beginning of this year,” Akash said. “It’s been going very well, and business is growing. Being so close to the business park means we’re always very busy at lunchtime and breakfast.”
The Applegreen forecourt is combined with a Daybreak store, and it’s the instore deli which has become a focal point of the business.
“Our customers are largely after sandwiches and rolls,” he said. “It’s a standard Daybreak deli, but we’ve also got an instore bakery that bakes a range of products from scratch.”
According to Akash, the bakery has helped attract many more people to the site.
“It’s about going back to basics – people love homemade, baked bread products,” he said. “And not many people are doing it as it can be quite intensive.”
The site’s 12 staff is well-trained, with its deli team looking after the time-intense bakery,
“When it comes to the bakery, you need to be so accurate to keep consistency,” he said. “That’s why we train staff to such a high level. It really helps us to maintain standards.”
The standards Akash keeps at all his forecourts marries with the expectation of quality from being an Applegreen site.
He explained that since switching to the brand earlier this year, business has been going “extremely well”, growing by 20% over the period.
“Standards are very high, and the reputation of the brand is strong,” he said. “Applegreen are very easy to work with, and we have an affinity in the focus on staff training. This is especially true when it comes to ensuring the site’s standards are met, and in things like promoting the fuel card loyalty programme.”
According to Akash, Applegreen’s fuel card is the most competitive on the market, with no card fees or hidden charges, and has been hugely beneficial to the business.
He said: “The loyalty card is a big benefit and we promote it to anyone who comes into the store. The customers get great value from it. They get points for every fuel card purchase and it’s a great incentive.”
It’s incentives like these which keep Akash’s forecourt in the running, as the demand for quality convenience seems constantly on the rise in Ennis.
“Ennis is a very competitive market for forecourts,” Akash said. “It’s a nice town and it’s getting very busy at the moment. During the year, there was a Fleadh music festival which brought a lot of people here – the numbers were over 100,000 over the course of the week.
“There are a lot of shops and businesses, but switching to Applegreen has really helped give us an edge.”
And for Akash, one of the most important aspects of that competitive edge is pricing.
“Pricing is the most important way of staying competitive,” he said. “It has to be right, and once it is, then it’ll begin to draw customers.”
Akash also feels that running promotions is important to a successful site, and runs “very strong” offers on a regular basis at the store.
“It’s important to give back to customers with local promotions,” he said. “It keeps them coming back.”
And for Akash, those promotions are going to continue throughout the Christmas period.
“We’re going to have very strong promotions over Christmas in conjunction with Daybreak, and we’ll be promoting it in the national press,” he said.
It’s simple lessons like these that has helped Akash assemble an impressive network of filling stations in just seven years.
“I started my first retail store in 2009 and just saw it grow,” he said. “It’s had its difficult points, and the recession was very hard, but the economy is picking up.
“Now more than ever it is key to maintain high levels of customer care, staff training, and high standards.”
Akash uses in-house and external mystery shoppers and audits to ensure his sites are among the best in the business. He’s also receiving a lot of valuable support from Applegreen’s business development manager, David Watson. David is always on hand to help Akash with any questions he has or any issues that arise.
“I now have plans to expand the business further and open two more sites by the end of next year,” he said. “Applegreen has helped me do that.”
For more information or to become an Applegreen dealer partner please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01-512 4868.