A small, run down rural forecourt on the main A5 between Ballygawley and Omagh in County Tyrone has undergone a major makeover – and the results are stunning. Company director Naomi Curry could see the potential for the site, and with a healthy dose of long term vision, she decided to take it on, turn it around and create something special for the up and coming rural area.
The A5 is a busy trunk road, with a high volume of commuter and commercial traffic. The Department of Infrastructure in the north describes it as ‘the A5 Western Transport Corridor’. It is one of the Department of Infrastructure’s five key transport corridors identified in the Regional Transportation Strategy for Northern Ireland. Its improvement represents a significant link in plans to improve strategic links between the urban centres of Londonderry/Derry, Strabane, Omagh and Aughnacloy and improves connections to the North West.
For Naomi, a combined background in both property and forecourt retailing gave her the experience and expertise to make it happen. She previously worked in property management for Savills. At a young age, she had worked in forecourt retail, before spending several years in managing property as a career.
OPPORTUNITY TO INVEST
However, she wanted a business of her own, and along came this precise opportunity at the right time – primed and ready for development by someone with the vision to see what it could become.
“I saw it as an opportunity to invest. I could see the commercial potential of the site, and its benefits for the community. It has taken significant investment, with a partnership between Ulster Bank, Centra, Emo, and myself,” explained Naomi.
The first step was to get the site through the planning process, which went quite smoothly. The original forecourt was demolished and building of the new site started in June 2019 – with a five month turnaround. The new Centra and Emo forecourt opened for business on Tuesday 26th November 2019.
Since then, the customer feedback has been fantastic. All targets have been surpassed – and then some, demonstrating just how ripe the site was for development on this significant route.
“The industry is constantly changing, but the investment has been significant. My plan was to focus on customer experience on this busy commuter route, to ensure that our services met expectations,” said Naomi. “I wanted an easily accessible site with good parking facilities, to deliver affordable prices, and to meet customer demand. There are plans for the future – such as a car wash, and EV charging points. AdBlue has now been installed on the site and the lighting of the canopy is excellent.”
The canopy lighting is a specific feature of the overall Emo branding. This was important to Naomi, who wanted a respected and recognisable, colourful brand with impact. A visit to Trainor’s
Emo branded forecourt in Poyntzpass was the defining moment for Naomi. “I could see the impact of their branding, especially the lighting. I saw that Emo could deliver a modern forecourt.
“I met with Richard Irvine, Emo’s business development manager. He shared and understood my vision to deliver and meet expectations for the site, with a strong, reliable brand offering at a competitive price.
“I wanted to differentiate the forecourt from the competition. The Emo branding and colours fitted with the Centra colour scheme within the shop. I wanted a forecourt which was visually attractive.”
Historically, the site was a small forecourt and car showroom with a little shop. It was entirely demolished and rebuilt. The four point island forecourt now features an OPT – an Outdoor Payment Terminal. AdBlue has been a welcome addition, and the full height canopy enables ease of access for HGVs, coaches and buses, and means the forecourt has high visibility. One pump has been fitted with high speed diesel – suitable for commercial vehicles.
BRIGHT MODERN STORE
Naomi has also invested heavily in the creation of a bright, modern Centra store, compared to the small 900 square foot shop on the previous site. “Space has been dramatically increased. I worked with Barry Holland at Musgrave to create the Centra store. I wanted a store that was able to cater for both the transient customer and local community, to provide a significant, convenience grocery range.
“In-store there’s a modern off-licence, a hot and cold deli, seating area, ATM, lottery, Pay Point and customer toilets. Feedback has been fantastic from locals. People who drove past the site for years, are now coming in. I love the fast paced, customer facing nature of forecourt retailing. It’s long hours, seven days a week, but as my own business venture, I welcome this high footfall and fast pace,” said Naomi.
The ease of access and exit from the site is important for both passing commuters and commercial business. The forecourt is equipped for commercial vehicles. HGV drivers can just pull in to the site, get their hot meals and rest in the seating area.
This growing importance of the forecourt café-style culture is important – often the seating area is a favoured meeting point for people on the move, or for catching up on calls and emails (with full customer wifi access).
An open day is being planned for the spring, but so far the site is ‘selling itself’ with its stunning makeover and unique style.
“Richard Irvine, the business development manager for Emo has been particularly helpful to me. He was very easy to work with, and tailored a complete package for the site. His knowledge and expertise was so important. He had been driving past the site himself for years and could see the potential too. The entire team at Emo has been supportive and flexible.
“Musgrave and the retail community has also been extremely supportive. The new working environment is equally welcomed by our forecourt staff.”
The last word must go to the Emo branding however. Naomi found the Emo brand specifications suited her needs most. “It definitely does look good. It makes for a very attractive and welcoming customer experience – which is precisely what I wanted to create.”