Planet, People and Prosperity – IF&CR talks to Circle K’s Paul Dixon

Planet, People and Prosperity – IF&CR talks to Circle K’s Paul Dixon
Paul Dixon

Circle K is Ireland’s leading forecourt retailer with 420 sites and a presence in all 32 counties.

As Ireland’s market leader, IF&CR asks what makes Circle K the special K among the Irish forecourt family.

As we enter a brand New Year, on the heels of COP 28, IF&R asked what is the short, medium and long term outlook for Circle K as Ireland’s largest forecourt and convenience store company?

“We have a clear global sustainability plan mapped out until 2030, and we adapt that to our own localities,” said Paul Dixon. “There are three clear parts to this plan– planet, people and prosperity”.


“Our people are at the core of our sustainability commitments. We have a zero-harm policy and we take the safety and security of our teams very seriously.

“For example, we now use a closed cash, Safe Pay system. Our store teams have no access to cash and this helps keep them safe. This investment has been really valued by our store teams. In 2024 we’re excited to continue the rollout of our Anti-Aggression system in stores which allows remote monitoring of our store teams for two-way communication and direct contact into the Gardai, ensuring our teams always feel safe.”


Prosperity isn’t just in respect of the company and its employees, but the local communities as well.

“We work closely with all our local communities. Last year, we raised €180,000 for the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation. These funds equate to 10,350 hours of in-home nursing care and respite support for families which is just incredible. Circle K has formed a real partnership with the charity, often volunteering at the Jack & Jill Centre in Portlaoise. Before Christmas, I was up there myself painting and packing. It’s a proper partnership, and a charity very close to all our hearts,” Paul continued.


“COP28 was about global sustainability plans. A lot has been done but there’s a lot more to do, how do we reduce energy production for the planet’s sake and what role do we have as a business have to play in that? How do we reduce energy production?”

He explained that by 2030, 30% of the Circle K stores will be carbon neutral. “We are reducing energy consumption on site, all lighting is LED, or lighting back of house is on sensors. We have reduced lighting in stores and replaced old equipment with energy efficient fridges. Something as simple as installing fridges with doors has led to a 9% reduction in energy use – the fridge doesn’t need to work as hard to chill the products.”

Alternative Fuels

Circle K became the first fuel retailer in Ireland to power its national fleet of delivery vehicles with hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) renewable diesel, made from waste and by-products from the food industry.

The big commitment from COP 28 is around fuel credentials. As a provider of fossil fuel, we have a big commitment. We are moving towards more sustainable fuels to a product called HVO100. For heavy goods vehicles and fleets this has reduced emissions by 90% and we are now supplying HVO to businesses across the country including Musgraves, Facebook and Brennan’s. 100% of our own fleet runs on HVO.

“We now have HVO at six sites and will introduce it to seven more sites this calendar year.”

“We are also investing in CNG – Compressed Natural Gas. We have four sites now in key motorway areas: Cashel, Dublin Port, Ballysimon in Limerick and Clonshaugh.


Last year, Circle K announced a new range of own brand electric vehicle (EV) chargers to be installed across its network over the next two years and is committed to enhance its existing network of EV chargers, which is already the most extensive across the Irish forecourt and convenience retail industry.

“We are committed to improving the customer experience for EV drivers. We are investing €7m to add 30 brand new fast chargers. We have EV charging at 44 stores now and will have 25% network connectivity. Circle K will continue to invest and innovate in this space to ensure we meet the needs of our current and future EV customers.”

Global company

As a successful part of a global company, Ireland would appear to ‘punch above its weight’ when it comes to forecourt and convenience store retailing. Why do you think that might be?

“We have a very successful business in Circle K Ireland. It is something of a role model, a benchmark when it comes to other countries,” says Paul Dixon.

Circle K has around 20 locations in every county.

“We are proud of the fact that we serve 1.5 million customers each week in Ireland.

“We are lucky to have so many synergies, we can gather insights and draw on the experiences of the global Circle K market” explained Paul. “There are many good things happening globally, for example the EV hubs in Norway, other exciting developments in Europe and while we are happy with our place in Ireland, we are always keen to learn.

Global corporation

What can Ireland teach the global corporation and vice versa –  what can Ireland learn from elsewhere?

“We share information. The company has a great global culture and we can adopt and improve and take learnings from the global business culture. As I mentioned, the EV hubs in Norway are a great example. Close to my heart is seeing how we run our own stores with a “Make It Easy” mission, how we can simplify what we already have, to enable the best customer experience. We have made our learning more customer focused – and learned a lot from Europe.” said Paul.

“On the flip side, we are trusted in Ireland to lead and influence. A couple of examples that we have incorporated into stores are new technologies. Lift – an upsell screen attached to the till. Lift will learn what the customer is buying and make suggestions based on that. If the customer has bought a coffee, it might suggest a pastry to go with that. With fuel, it might offer a car wash. We are piloting this in Ireland with the intent to roll it out around the company. The Lift system is aligned with the till system and will react, based on the transaction.

“Another example we are proud of implementing in Ireland is the Easy Office initiative. In the six and a half years I’ve been with Circle K, I noticed that too much of the managers’ time was spent on admin. We’ve been working to reduce that admin time and burden for a few years now to get to a level that allowed us to move managers on to the shop floor. They have iPads and laptops for ordering by the tills. They have more time for interacting with customers and not stuck in a back office doing admin all the time. We have made managers who are leading from the front – I’m super proud of this.”

Customer habits

With the move away from fossil fuels and new forms of energy moving centre stage, how will Circle K adapt its offering in the future?

“We are adapting our offering and products as customers’ habits will change. Even fast EV chargers take around 20 minutes depending on the journey.

“During my time with Circle K I’ve seen a lot of change, and this will continue with future global expectations. EV penetration in Norway means we are taking customer learning back to Ireland. The aim is to make it as frictionless for the customer as possible. Whether fuel or electric, we will continue with developments and investment in-store.

“Our customers want a great coffee, and we are driving this forward through continued investment in our K Coffee machines as well as constantly improving and evolving our Fresh Food Fast range to provide high quality food. While the focus is on the Circle K range, we are also looking at partnerships with Subway and SuperMacs.


“Basic improvements will include improving seating facilities instore for those customers waiting for their electric vehicle to charge, better toilets and other facilities. We will continue to do what we do well. Long journeys mean thirst so more beverages to go with food on-the-go. We have used some of the data from Norway – such as for food offerings. One of the sites has a complete seating area upstairs for ‘dwell time’ and to enhance the overall experience.”

Circle K stand alone stores

IF&CR asked Paul about the stand alone Circle K convenience stores – will we see more of this in Ireland in the future – perhaps in a 24 hour format?

“Circle K has had stand-alone convenience stores in Ireland since 2021. We acquired nine convenience stores – six in the city centre of Dublin and three in the outskirts of Dublin. This was a strategic acquisition to engage and attract new customers in a different market. For us, we are very comfortable in this space. There’s no fuel or fuel card business so a lot of learning from the forecourts in terms of the product, and the flip side is we can take that learning to the service stations. In short, it complements our core business well and we are very happy with this. On a personal note, as a Dub, I’m delighted to see it and take pride in these Dublin convenience stores.”

Regional differences – and similarities

Ireland is comprised of four provinces – Ulster, Munter, Leinster and Connaught – are there regional differences across the country in retail and operations terms – for example, do you notice regional variations, preferences, retail patters – that sort of thing?

“We are across the four provinces, and we trade in all counties, and we are there to serve local communities. We have 169 company owned stores, consistently offering value. Whether that’s in Bantry or Ballina, we aim to offer a similar experience. There will be local products side by side – for example local newspapers or products, but the experience would be very similar to what you’d see in any of the stores. It’s about simplification of the offer while fully understanding different markets and communities,” said Paul.

Definite evidence

Is there evidence that people are moving away from fossil fuels towards alternative – for example, the SIMI (Society of the Irish Motor Industry) figures for 2023 show sales of electric vehicles up 45%?

“With regard to EVs there is definitely evidence of increased demand. We see it in our own EV usage per site. Unleaded is starting to grow, as that’s what’s required for hybrid vehicles.

“Hybrid is increasing, we will see the move towards electric vehicles in stages and more hybrid vehicles before people decide to make the big switch to EV, but yet they can still feel they are doing their part.

“We are very ambitious in the EV sector and plan to spend over 7 million in the next 18 months, growing our site numbers with EV chargers to over 30.  We see this as a key part of our future offering to our customers and will offer the best-in-class high speed EV charging facilities.”

Community hubs

Will forecourts become community hubs – providing a whole range of local services, while supporting the needs of passing motorists?

“We will definitely see more community hubs – more seating around facilities creating social space, and parking. I do believe Circle K will be a key part of communities throughout Ireland, whether dealer or company owned.

“We play a huge part in local community football clubs through our partnership with the FAI – Football Association of Ireland – for grass roots football. We have given over €100,000 euro to seven clubs and supporting local competitions and players. This has been very influential in local communities, and helps with access, availability – key parts of community in Ireland.

“We are also moving towards providing night-time services for people who work the night shifts – such as taxi drivers, emergency workers and healthcare staff. These stores will be Open Doors 24/7 and provide much needed services within communities. This was something we learned from Denmark.

“From February night shift workers will be able to come in, get a coffee, browse the shop. Our customers aren’t just 7 to 11 but 24 hours and there is a thriving night-time economy. Now we can offer a better customer experience through the night.”

Surrounded by good people

How did Paul come to be  Circle K’s Senior Director Retail Sales and Operations?

“I’ve worked for 20 years in retail, more than half of my life. I progressed through Marks & Spencer for 14 years and joined Circle K six and a half years ago in a retail support role.

“Over four years ago, I was promoted to retail director, having joined the brand just before it re-branded from Topaz.  For me, I’ve been lucky enough to be given this opportunity – we have 2,200 people working in our stores.

“I was only with the company a few years when Covid-19 hit, and there is no textbook for dealing with that, but I’m proud of some of the fantastic initiatives we worked on, such as Easy Office and the stand alone stores in Dublin.

“I’m proud of that, and to work for a company that gives genuine opportunities to people and there are plenty of opportunities for internal progress.

“I am surrounded by good people. There is a great culture at Circle K. It’s agile and has a fantastic culture. I can’t stress that enough – Circle K is a fantastic place to work. We have won awards globally for that such as with Gallup and we are in the IBEC Top 100 for our wellbeing initiatives and people engagement.

“People literally like working for Circle K – we attract a good balance of people across genders and nationalities.”

Remarkable opportunities

“The opportunities that Circle K gives its staff are remarkable. Out of 12 Sales Market Managers, seven were working initially in stores when I started as a Retail Director. In the last four years, they have become senior leaders – there are excellent opportunities for people to develop. Circle K genuinely put people at the heart of the company and support staff through tougher economic times as well as providing free lunches and free coffees. Circle K deserves credit for how good a company it is, and the progress and opportunities it gives to its people.”