Maxol – Stronger than Ever

Maxol – Stronger than Ever

IF&CR talks to Maxol CEO Brian Donaldson about 2023 – and plans for 2024

How has 2023 been for Maxol overall and how has it compared to the previous 12 months?

“The Maxol business performed stronger than ever in 2023, with solid growth in our convenience, coffee and fresh food categories, which are critical to our repositioning as fuel becomes a smaller part of our business as new forms of mobility grow in importance” said Brian.

“2023 was the first year since the pandemic that we were able to experience more normal trading and working patterns in all of our five core areas of business – Retail Fuels, Wholesale Fuels, Retail Convenience, Fuel Cards and Lubricants.  However, the onset of higher inflation, tight labour markets and rising interest rates both at home and globally created new challenges not just for our business but the wider economy too. But consumer sentiment rebounded and customers continued to shop locally more frequently and, with the average transactional spend at Maxol stores higher than previous years, this suggests our convenience offer is the right one. The Covid boost and retention of new customers prevailed and indeed continues to grow. Hybrid working is another factor that is supporting this new trend and our stores have benefitted from the corresponding change in customer behaviour.”

2023 milestones

“2023 was an incredibly exciting year for Maxol that saw the business mark several significant milestones on our journey to becoming best known for our convenience led retail offer.

“Maxol invested €20m in the business, which included the acquisition and retrofit of Killeen’s service station in Wexford and the redevelopment of six other stores in ROI including Lucan, Greenhills, Templeogue in Dublin and Clonakilty, Ballincollig and Skehard Road in Cork ,   extending both our product and value range for customers.

“In Northern Ireland we completed both large and smaller scale developments at Marino in Holywood, Braid River in Ballymena along with Townparks and Portrush in County Antrim.

“These investments are primarily focused on enhancing our food and convenience retail offer with larger brighter stores, more car parking and using technology to create a brilliant customer experience such as installing more self-service checkouts and Pay at Pump technology for ease of fuelling, and convenience shopping.

“Working alongside our partners such as BWG and Bewley’s, we provided and continue to provide our customers with quality food solutions throughout the day, whether that’s a grab-and-go breakfast and lunch, freshly brewed ROSA Coffee as well as our extensive grocery offer including fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and frozen food ranges. With the right offer in place to meet our customers’ needs we saw an uplift in shop sales of +21% last year.

Retail Conference

“Our first Retail Conference in more than five years, which we hosted at The K Club saw more than 200 Maxol retailers get together for knowledge sharing and to reflect on landmark moments from the past five years, which included an investment of more than €100M in the business, the acquisition and opening of 25 new service stations and the completion of 70 refurbishments.

“More importantly we looked ahead to the next five years and announced our future growth plans, which are central to our 2023-2027 strategy that will see the business invest a further €100m across our service station network and future proof the business for generations to come.

Homegrown at Maxol

“Continuing the busy streak, last year we launched a programme to support Ireland’s small and medium sized food and drinks producers to help them grow and scale up their business. Homegrown at Maxol invited all SMEs in food and drink to submit their products to the programme for an opportunity to win shelf space across around 70 Maxol stores, expert mentorship and €10,000 in marketing support. Homegrown at Maxol is about giving a hand-up to the many exciting SMEs and start-ups we have in Ireland by championing our local producers and while we initially we set out to support four, such was the interest and the calibre of entry that six winners were selected for the inaugural programme. The phenomenal response from our retailers, customers and the winners has encouraged us to develop the programme further and we are gearing up for 2024 in an effort to support even more small producers. Supporting local has always been a priority for our business – it’s one of the reasons we joined the Champion Green programme.


“It didn’t stop there! In August we launched Bags More, a new multi-platform campaign and our first TV ad in over seven years that highlights the convenience, value and wide range of grocery products Maxol offers customers every day beyond fuel. The all-Ireland campaign ran across TV, Radio, Outdoor, Digital and instore, and marked an important strategic milestone for Maxol. It set out our ambition to be a leading convenience retailer across the island of Ireland. Developed with Havas Dublin, the humorous ad resonated well with audiences, and we plan to double our media investment for the campaign in 2024.


“In November we announced a new charity partnership with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and Guide Dogs NI to support visually impaired people and people with autism. Having met with and spoken to several guide dog owners, the business fully appreciates the life-changing impact these highly trained and intuitive dogs can have. These special dogs give their owners confidence but crucially independence too.

“Throughout our two-year partnership we will support the charity by increasing the awareness and impact of the charity’s work. And we’re committed to funding the training of at least six assistance dogs across the island of Ireland, each of which costs €53,000

Stellar Year

“All of these factors have contributed to what was another stellar year for The Maxol Group in 2023, with strong revenue growth.  The momentum is being brought through to 2024 and we will have more exciting plans to announce in the coming weeks and months, as we invest even further in our network.

“The cost-of-living crisis remains a challenge for very many households. We saw grocery price inflation peak at 16.8% in mid-2023 (Kantar) and while inflation is now on a downward trend and interest rates have eased, the fact is that prices remain higher now than they were two years ago, and household budgets remain under pressure.  But as a family-owned and run business, we are recognised for the every-day value we offer our customers.  This means regular price promotions and in-store discounts.  Our loyalty app has been key in rewarding and retaining customers and bringing a new dimension to their experience with Maxol and has been particularly well received.

“We are still operating in a tight labour market and labour costs will continue to grow across the economy following the introduction of the minimum wage and the impending pensions auto-enrolment programme, alongside statutory sick pay and various other regulatory measures to support Ireland’s workers.

“Inflation is still an issue in the construction industry and while materials and labour costs have stabilised somewhat in recent months, they are still at a much higher level today than pre-2020.  This has a direct impact on our redevelopment and retrofit projects, but we do make provision for rising costs and are undeterred as we continue to develop and grow the business.

“Fluctuating fuel prices remained a challenge for much of the year as wholesale prices continued to be impacted by global events including Russia’s war in Ukraine and recent events in Gaza.

“While volatility in the market wasn’t on the same scale as 2022, it was a tricky time as we kept track of movements – both up and down – but fortunately we are seeing prices coming back and we work hard to deliver competitively priced fuel for our forecourt customers.

“Dealing with challenges is part of every business operation and while those challenges might change from year to year, we have a very clear strategy, backed by significant investment and support from our board that ensures we can achieve our objectives for the benefit of the business, and for our customers.

With a particular focus on ROI – there have been some significant developments and expansions in the last year – how important have these been for the company?


“Our five-year strategic plan will continue to evolve our business mix, further reducing our reliance on traditional fuels and increasing our non-fuel revenues. We will do this by focusing on key categories such as coffee, food to go and grocery, while taking a leadership role in quality advanced fuels and new energies for mobility, including electric charging hubs under Maxol Recharge.

Maxol Recharge EV HUB ROLL OUT

“I have referenced our significant €20M spend last year and how the redevelopment of key sites in our network are helping to drive growth. But, as we gear up for future mobility, one of our most important programme has been the development of our Ultra Rapid EV Charging hubs, two of which will open in ROI in the coming weeks at destination stores in Maxol Newbridge and Maxol Ballycoolin at a cost of almost €3m.

“Each will feature six high speed 200kw chargers offering a 15 minute charge time and Maxol is committed to supporting the move to EV with state-of-the-art destination service stations that fulfil all customer needs.

“This is a landmark move for Maxol in ROI and the next phase in our EV mobility roll out following the launch in December 2022 of Northern Ireland’s first dedicated Ultra Rapid EV hub in Kinnegar, Co Down and Maxol Braid River, Ballymena at the end of last year.

“When it comes to EV mobility, while our strategy is to offer EV charging in areas where we see greatest demand, the speed at which we can roll out our EV transition programme is hugely frustrating.  Access to power capacity and the time it takes to connect to the grid are ongoing challenges with no improvements in sight. The process is not aided by the high costs for substation and connection fees to establish these much-needed hubs both in ROI and NI.

“In developing our Ultra Rapid EV hubs we take a 360 degree approach using technology to create a measurably different service station, reducing the site’s existing carbon footprint by up to 40%. This includes the introduction of photovoltaic (solar) panels, low energy CO2 refrigeration systems; exhaust air-heat pump technology to reduce heating loads and an energy management system to monitor and control the overall energy usage on the site.

“More widely, technology is playing an increasing role in our stores and on our forecourts as we strive to give our customers speedy payment solutions. On the forecourt, Pay at Pump technology is more widely available to ensure greater convenience for customers during busy trading periods and Maxol loyalty app customers can pay for Fuel using the Fuel Pay feature in app. In selected stores in NI, self-service checkouts are now an integral part of our digital strategy and are proving popular with customers.


“For our growing commercial customer base, since January Maxol has been providing Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) at nine sites across the country including three in ROI, with plans to introduce HVO at even more sites during the year. Maxol’s HVO Pro is a low emissions biodiesel, meaning it has up to 90% lower carbon emissions when compared with regular diesel, resulting in cleaner air. It is compatible with most diesel engines and supports our commitment to providing more sustainable fuel options, with a focus on fleet and fuel card customers.

What initiatives have the company taken to help retailers with rising business costs and pressures?

“With rising operating costs a real concern for all businesses, we will continue to invest in labour saving technologies such as self-check outs, electronic shelf edge labelling and also contactless payments for car washing, all of which are designed to help manage rising labour costs. In addition, our energy management system enables our retailers to monitor and control the overall energy usage on the site and we have been helping our retailers on ways to minimise their energy usage throughout the year and will continue to work closely with them on initiatives to help manage business costs.

And in conclusion?

“I believe that Maxol is one of Ireland’s great Irish family-owned businesses and will remain so for a long time to come.”