Topaz’s Senior Director of Retail Sales and Operations, Jonathan Diver, reveals plans to introduce Circle-K and discusses the elements of the plan that will put the company on the world map
“At Topaz, we never slow down,” said senior director of retail sales and operations dealers at Topaz, Jonathan Diver.
And it’s no wonder. The company has been on a journey of epic proportions over the past 13 months, after one of the biggest take-over deals in the Irish sector’s history.
December 2015 saw Canadian-based forecourt and convenience titan Couche-Tard acquire the successful Irish company Topaz for a nine-figure sum.
Only now, however, have details of what that deal means for the local market emerged, as Jonathan revealed Couche-Tard’s famous Circle-K brand is indeed on the way to Ireland.
“As a company, Circle-K has big plans for Ireland” he explained.
“Ireland is seen as a market with huge potential and opportunity and we have already started to trial some of the new Circle K global concepts in our stores.”
“Ireland is seen as a real hub in terms of our food offering and our innovative concepts throughout the rest of Europe and even the world. Since we have joined the Circle K Family the approach has been to learn from our market and see what elements of our offer can work across Europe and other markets.”
Jonathan explained that Topaz’s Cantina brand, a Mexican food offer created in-house by the Topaz team, could soon be on the way to the continent, and possibly even the USA.
“Circle-K is continuing to purchase service stations in other markets,” Jonathan said. “It has aggressive plans to double its size over the next five years, and see’s our food offering, including Cantina, as a brands that has the potential to travel which is hugely exciting.”
Couche-Tard’s ambition marries well with Topaz’s well-documented hunger for expansion. Just months before the major take-over deal, Topaz managed its own colossal transaction, taking ownership of over 90 Esso forecourts throughout Ireland, boosting its network to over 430 service stations.
According to Jonathan, the end of 2018 will see the beginning of that huge Irish network of forecourts rebranding itself to the world-famous Circle-K fascia.
However, before that happens, Topaz will be embarking in further development of its offer, some of which has already begun, introducing four refreshed elements from the Circle-K brand.
These include an updated coffee offer, a revamped carwash proposition, a new fuel proposition and new food options.
Element one is the introduction of the new coffee brand Simply Great Coffee, and the scale of Circle-K’s plans for the brand are quite staggering.
“Simply Great Coffee is already right across Circle K’s European forecourts,” Jonathan explained. “The plan is to compete against Starbucks.”
Taking on Starbucks would first appear to be an ambition too far, but Circle K does not mess about.
“You may see this this as wishful thinking,” Jonathan said, “But we’ve already started rolling out Simply Great Coffee offer cross our Esso branded sites, and we’ll be completing the roll out across all of our sites by the end of this year.
“It will be in the next couple of years that people will realise how big this brand is and going to be. By the time the roll out completes across the Topaz network in Ireland, it will be the second largest coffee-to-go brand in the world.”
The next element of change to look out for on Topaz forecourts this year will be their updated carwash offer.
“Carwash is massive in Circle-K outlets throughout north Eastern Europe, and these guys really know how to do the carwash well and give it an element of theatre,” Jonathan said.
“We’ve rolled out the new carwash concept at 30 of our company-owned outlets using the Circle-K technology and insight. They provide a real shine and impressive finish. It’s a really strong, quality carwash, and the numbers we’ve seen at the sites already have been amazing. Now we’re set to do another 30, with the remaining sites being updated over the next 12-13 months. It’s going to be big for us.”
The third element, fuel, is just as transformative. According to Jonathan, all Topaz’s current fuel branding will be switched to Circle K’s miles brand. That roll out is due to begin within six months’ time.
“Across all Circle-K stores in Europe at the moment, they have the miles fuel proposition. So this year will see all Topaz pumps rebranded. Miles guarantees up to 3% more efficient fuel and many other qualities, such as reduced fuel emissions and improved engine performance.
“There’ll obviously be huge power in that brand as it will stretch right across Europe.”
The fourth element will be food, which Jonathan described as “one of the key corner-stones” of the transition.
“We will continue to push forward with the Cantina brand” he said. “In the latter part of last year, we also developed The Good Catch, which is a gourmet fish & chips offer, and that will be going into selected stores.”
The Cantina brand too is set for a number of high profile placements, such as Topaz’s flagship Dublin Airport site. Healthy eating will also play a big role, and Jonathan said we will continue to drive further innovation in healthier options.
The huge changes on the way will, however, not be stifling continued growth at Topaz, and Jonathan explained the company is developing a number of motorway sites, such as in Carlow, on the M1 and in Fermoy in Cork.
The Topaz director added that they are hopeful that 3 planned NRA sites which are still in the approval process will get the go ahead in 2017.
“The decision is imminent, and we’re very hopeful that it will give us the ability to develop these sites,” he said.
Those sites would complement the Topaz’s 12 dealer sites that were added to the Topaz family during 2016, in addition to the continued rebranding of Esso stations to Topaz.
“We have a busy year ahead, but we’re still focused on the basics and have priorities there too,” Jonathan said. “Delivering great customer service and maintaining standards will remain at the top of our priorities. Consumers are getting more demanding and we need to deliver for them.”
With huge ambitions, and world-dominating plans underway, it’s impressive to realise that for Topaz, that fifth element remains the most important.