Ben Lenihan – Retail Director at Inver Energy on the new Castlecomer forecourt

Ben Lenihan – Retail Director at Inver Energy on the new Castlecomer forecourt

Inver Energy has revealed the latest addition to its network of retail forecourts with the opening of Inver Castlecomer Road, strategically located just off the Castlecomer roundabout, in Kilkenny.

IF&CR finds out more from Ben Lenihan – Retail Director at Inver Energy

 ‘Inver Castlecomer Road is strategically located just off the Castlecomer roundabout in Kilkenny.’ What makes the locations strategic – can you outline the thought that goes into deciding on a new location – and why?

“When selecting a strategic location for a new forecourt, the Retail Team and I carefully consider factors such as accessibility, visibility, convenience, market demand, competition and foot traffic. In the case of Inver Castlecomer Road, its strategic location just off the Castlecomer roundabout in Kilkenny offers advantages such as easy access to transportation routes, visibility to passing traffic, proximity to residential and commercial areas and potential for future growth and development in the region” said Ben.

What goes in to creating a state of the art station – fit for the 21st century, and built from the ground up? Could you walk through the process?

“The process starts with careful planning, picking the ideal location and designing a visually appealing layout aligned with the demands of local customers. Selecting a contractor to deliver our vision is a key step in this process, which is chosen based on their experience, track record, commitment to quality and adherence to safety standards. Construction follows, using high-quality materials and adhering to safety standards” he explained.

“Building a forecourt from the ground up requires collaboration with multiple vendors and professionals with diverse expertise, and we make sure to select talented professionals and partners to help us conceptualize the design and execute the vision for our stations.”

With an investment of 2.3 million euros, this company owned site represents a significant development for Inver. It is part of a bigger picture – if so, what are the future plans for more forecourts of a similar size and scale?

“We plan to continue expanding our network of Inver forecourts across Ireland and enhancing our presence in the market. Our goal is to further grow our footprint, by investing in building new sites and welcoming independent dealers to join our network, providing more locations where customers can access our quality fuels and exceptional service.”

Why partner with SPAR? Was that a strategic decision too – providing a solid, sound retail partnership?

“SPAR is a well-established retail brand with expertise in various aspects of retail operations including logistics, marketing and customer service. This collaboration is mutually beneficial, with both parties leveraging each other’s strengths to achieve their respective goals.

How does the SPAR store complement the rest of the site?

“The SPAR store at Inver Castlecomer Road complements the rest of the site by offering a convenient experience for customers. The shop provides a wide range of products, including groceries, snacks, beverages, and household essentials. The shop also features a barista-style Insomnia coffee bar and our deli offers a selection of hot and cold meals freshly made to our customers. This integration between the service station and convenience store creates a one-stop destination for customers, meeting their needs for both fuel and everyday shopping items in a single visit.”

The Insomnia coffee and hot and cold deli offering has become standard in the modern forecourt. This is what’s expected now by the passing motorist – the full ‘on-the-go’ offering. Would you agree?

“Yes, I would agree that fresh and quality on-the-go food and beverages have become standard in the modern forecourt, meeting the expectations of passing motorists and local consumers who are looking for convenience, quality, and variety during their journeys. Offering a range of hot and cold deli items, along with quality coffee from brands like Insomnia, ensures that our sites are a one stop-shop for customers” said Ben.

Liaising with the local community is an important part of the location and encouraging local economic prosperity. Is that part of the Inver strategy overall – and what plans do you have to engage with the local community?

“Engaging with the community is an important aspect of Inver’s DNA.  Inver Castlecomer Road is already contributing to the local economy by creating sustainable jobs, generating economic activity in the region and supporting local charities.

“Our commitment to community involvement is exemplified by our Leading Lights initiative where every year each one of Inver’s forecourts has a fund of €1,000 to go towards a local charity. On its first year, Inver Castlecomer Road has nominated two exceptional charities that make a difference in Kilkenny’s community: Jack and Jill Foundation and Kilkenny SPCA.

“In 2023 alone, Inver donated over €60,000 to 75 charities across Ireland. As our network expands, so too will our engagement with communities. We believe that by actively participating in and contributing to the communities we serve, we can create lasting positive impacts and mutually beneficial relationships.”

Inver Castlecomer has HVO at the pumps – this is an exciting development and one we have covered previously in IF&CR. How has this been received – and how are you promoting the HVO offering to motorists?

“Generally positively, albeit the customer base is still small, but growing. That’s not surprising given it’s been a relatively recent addition to the Irish liquid fuels market. Currently, we are targeting HVO mainly to commercial and industrial users who are committed to reducing their own emissions footprint.

“We believe that Inver, as well as the liquid fuels industry, have a responsibility to educate and inform motorists on the range of options available today to reduce their emissions.   The general public may be surprised to learn that the fuels purchased at a forecourt already contains a percentage of biofuel – specifically biodiesel or HVO blended in diesel, or bioethanol in gasoline, due to the changes to the Road Transport Fuel Obligation (RFTO) in 2023. The percentage of biofuels blended into diesel will continue to grow, as the obligation rises, helping to decarbonise road transport today.”

HVO is important to Inver’s evolution – what are the future plans for your biofuel offering across the country?

“Primarily, to make our range of biofuels as accessible as possible for all potential customers. This will involve not just making it available at a wider range of forecourts, but also looking at flexible storage solutions to certain customers purchase in bulk. We are also continuing to look at our terminal configuration to ensure it is optimised to import, store and make available the widest choice of renewable fuels to accommodate the changing market dynamics.

What does being part of the global Greenergy Group bring to the table locally?

“Primarily, it offers us resilience by being able to leverage Greenergy’s supply chain knowledge and global reach. Additionally, accessing Greenergy’s expertise and resources allows us to be very agile in adopting to changing local and international market conditions. Being part of the Group also brings, through its experience in operating fuel manufacturing and storage infrastructure, a transparent and safety led culture, which we proudly replicate across the Irish business.”

Tell me a bit about yourself and your career to date Ben?

“I bring over thirty years of professional experience to my current role at Inver. Prior to joining Inver in 2013, I served as the Managing Director at Lenihan Management Consulting for nine years, focused on strategic consulting and business management. At Inver, I initially led the development of our retail fuels division and later transitioned to oversee the retail and convenience sectors. Throughout my career, I’ve been passionate about driving growth and innovation, and I’m proud to have played an instrumental role in expanding Inver’s extensive dealer network.”