Growing the brand in Killarney
John Bowler tells IF&CR why switching fuel supplier to Applegreen eight months ago was the best decision he could have made for his business.
With two forecourts on either side of the road, you could say that retailer John Bowler has conquered the fuel market in north Killarney. Both sites proudly display the iconic green Applegreen colours over the canopy and boast bright and attractive Centra fascias in store. On the road out of town, Centra The Rocks, is able to capture Killarney’s rapidly increasing food-to-go market, while its counterpart, facing the opposite direction, plays host to regular top-up shoppers.
In August of last year John rebranded his forecourts to Applegreen after seeing what the Irish fuel network could do for his business.
Having previously traded under a few different fuel suppliers, John had a clear picture in mind of what he was looking for; good service, affordability, and a strong brand reputation.
“I met with Applegreen back in June of last year – not so much with the idea of switching but to find out more about what they were doing in the marketplace,” explains John. “After the first couple of conversations I came to be convinced of the brand and its potential.”
At the time John was satisfied with his current fuel supplier but was apprehensive about a recent takeover from an international company. However, he wasn’t about to switch networks for just any brand.
“I could see that Applegreen had been consistently moving towards becoming a premium brand name. They have a big association with food, which is very important to my business, and I knew that they were about to launch a premium fuel that I had the capacity to take at my site – it seemed like the natural step,” says John.
Last month Applegreen launched its most advanced unleaded and diesel fuel yet into the marketplace. Using a concentrated additive to ensure drivers get the best from their vehicles, fuelgood PowerPlus cleans up the engine as the vehicle is driven and restores it to a ‘like new’ condition.
Despite making a move into the more premium fuel market, John states Applegreen are still widely believed to be the most cost effective fuel in the area.
“That’s a big positive for them,” he says. “While they are very competitive in price, and probably the cheapest around, they are growing their brand and moving away from other discounters. On top of that, the Applegreen brand is largely associated now with coffee and food-to-go – it’s just a general package that seems to be working for them all around the country.”
Although Applegreen’s rapidly expanding brand image and competitive pricing structure appealed to John, he had some reservations that he might lose his profitable fuel card trade.
“Previously 20 percent of my business came from fuel card customers and I had the fear that I would lose that business by switching to another network. However, Applegreen assured me that not only would they replace the fuel card customer with a non-fuel card customer but they would also grow the business too. That’s what’s happened on my site over the last six months – I’ve had that 20 percent replaced and it has grown even further.”
Supporting a home-grown Irish brand is also a huge plus point.
“If the brand wasn’t acceptable or the financials didn’t work, maybe the Irish association wouldn’t hold as much weight as it does – but all things being equal of course it matters,” says John.
As with any business it is the people that make the experience worthwhile. Dáire Nolan, managing director for Applegreen RoI and business development manager Ray O’Sullivan have been on board with developing the site from day one.
“They know the site now and they’ve been very helpful. Even the contractors have been easy to deal with. Everyone from health and safety, to electrical, to fuel maintenance – they are all aware of who they represent and are an extension of the Applegreen brand.
“If another retailer rings me to ask about Applegreen – this happens a lot in retail – I would say Applegreen are well aware that they are as much a shop window for potential customers as they are for existing customers. I would tell anybody how great the service has been and how easy they’ve been to do business with – it’s a very good news story for them and no doubt they will capture the attention of other sites as they continue to grow.”