Forecourts must diversify as customers start to charge up at home: Gala Retail’s Gary Desmond

Forecourts must diversify as customers start to charge up at home: Gala Retail’s Gary Desmond

Forecourts will need to diversify their offering as customers become more able to charge their vehicles at home, Gala Retail CEO Gary Desmond has warned.

As forecourt retailing faces a period of change, Gary told IFCR he recognises the need for change and incorporating alternative fuel options and how that will impact the traditional role of the forecourt store.

“As the EV market in Ireland and the subsequent demand for EV charging grows, the infrastructure must evolve to accommodate this as an option for commuters, ensuring access to charging points. As part of Ireland’s journey to Net Zero, we have a responsibility to provide access to these services that are designed to offset emissions and promote a more sustainable way of living,” he says.

“In terms of the impact that this will have on the Irish forecourt retailing market, it is important to consider the fact that EV charging will directly affect the role that forecourts play in customers’ day-to-day lives. As customers become able to charge EVs from homes, forecourts must diversify their offering for customers, innovating to provide products, services and food options that will encourage drivers to stop at forecourt stores for reasons other than fuelling up.

“Forecourts already provide much more than just fuel, offering locations for customers and commuters to stop and pick up essentials, stretch their legs, grab a coffee and a bite to eat, and recharge themselves while they’re out on the road.

“While EV charging Is increasingly factored into planning and infrastructure, having a population that is predominantly using EVs as their main mode of transport is still a long way off due to the costs and logistics involved for domestic and commercial drivers. So forecourts will continue to provide traditional fuel options for customers, and innovation will continue to play a key role in ensuring that Gala stores remain at the forefront of forecourt retailing in Ireland.”

As one of Ireland’s leading convenience groups with 248 stores within the Gala Retail family operating nationwide, the Gala Group serves thousands of shoppers daily.

The company has been keeping ahead of the curve as the market has developed, introducing chilled distribution, Gala own-brand products and fresh in-store concepts.

“One of the biggest changes in the market over the years during my time with Gala Retail has been the increased demand for fresh food and food-to-go offerings among customers, particularly forecourt customers,” Gary says.

“As the convenience retail sector has evolved, with fresh food offerings emerging as a key driver for consumers, Gala has responded by making fresh food a central part of our offering.

“In recent years we have invested heavily in the expansion of our Fresh Food team and in the development of our own exclusive range of in store concepts. The Gala Group has more Fresh Food Executives per retailer than any other convenience symbol group, demonstrating the pivotal role of fresh food in convenience retailing.”

Gala’s dedication to ensuring Gala retailers have access to innovative concepts that set their stores apart from competitors, delivering quality, convenient and food-to-go options, has proven to be a huge factor in driving footfall and increasing basket spend over the past few years.

“Fresh food-to-go is not just for people on the move. With the busy lifestyles that people are leading these days, they are also looking for high quality, convenient and fresh food-to-go options to enjoy at home and at Gala we are continuously innovating and developing our in-store offerings in order to cater for this market.”

To read the full interview, watch out for the next issue of Ireland’s Forecourt & Convenience Retailer.