Food not fuel tops the reasons for forecourt visits – according to new forecourt report – and IFCR readers

Food not fuel tops the reasons for forecourt visits – according to new forecourt report – and IFCR readers
Photo of girl shopper put shopping bags in car trunk cabin ready ride drive home cook family husband meal in town center outside

Less than one-in-ten forecourt shoppers say fuel is the main reason for their forecourt visit – a finding backed by feedback from some of Ireland’s leading retailers with dual forecourt and grocery businesses. The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the importance of the convenience store offering within a forecourt, according to the new Lumina Intelligence UK Forecourt Market Report 2021.

The one-stop shop trend of fuel and food is the barometer for future forecourts. With carbon fuels reducing, EVs increasing, biofuel innovations such as E10, and of course the Government’s Climate Change Bill all shaping the way forward for forecourts – grocery will become increasingly important to profitability.

Retailers with forecourts such as Newell’s in County Tyrone are concentrating on in-store additional services such as the off licence and Post Office. Developing in-store concepts such as bakery or developing food-to-go options is the future – in fact food-to-go is making a come back post-Covid better than ever.

“Hot food has bounced back to 85 or 90% of what it was. We don’t expect to see it make a full return to normality until people start to move around with confidence again” said Colin Conway of Newell’s in a recent interview.

Peter McBride of the McBride Group – which has a mix of stores with and without forecourts was grateful for the grocery side of the business throughout lock down – indicating that on the forecourts, food not fuel was the mainstay. He said “Fuel sales also took a hammering during the pandemic – especially in Fermanagh where the forecourts were badly hit. One of the forecourt sites closed completely for a year and has only just re-opened. Our mantra was to do everything we can for the customer and trade strongly when it’s all over. To be fair, this sector was one of the better ones to be in throughout the pandemic.”

Newry’s Fiveway Nisa – a large grocery outlet and forecourt close to the border also found that the emphasis has been on improving and developing the food offering.

“We are constantly evolving with our customers and with market trends and have seen a big uptake on our fresh Delicatessen, Hot Food and Food to Go offerings within the last number of years.  Notwithstanding the difficult year we have had due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been able to open up additional floor space to dedicate to our fresh offering and this has gone down very well with customers so far” said Yvonne Meehan of Fiveways Nisa.

Although anecdotal evidence, this backs up the report’s findings – that the key missions that are driving shoppers to forecourts in 2021 are planned top-up shop (26%); food to go – 16%; newsagent – 11% and distress or unplanned top-up (9%).

Research shows a fresh bakery in the forecourt brings customers through the doors

Planned top-ups

As over 25% of forecourt shoppers are on a planned top-up visit, the report identifies the most popular categories as bakery (45%), chilled foods excluding milk (44%), fresh fruit and veg (35%) and tinned or packaged grocery (32%).

On average forecourt shoppers visit three times per week (+0.6), purchase 3.7 items per visit (+0.2) and spend £15.18 (+£3.77).

Due to existing restrictions on travel, the focus on forecourts as retail destinations has gained traction. With shoppers advised to shop local for the majority of the year, this trend has been to the benefit of forecourts.

The report also found forecourt shoppers are 51% more likely to distinguish between stores through an in-store bakery offer and 44% more likely through choice of food to go, compared to convenience average.