The strongest of starts…
A new Maxol/Mace forecourt site on the M3 at Mulhuddart came to the fore at the recent IFCR Awards when it claimed two of the most sought-after titles of the competition a scant six months after it opened its doors to the public. Russell Campbell has been to visit the winning forecourt.
Perhaps the most immediately striking element of Keith Doyle’s award-winning facilities at Mulhuddart on the western fringes of Dublin is the efficiency with which limited space has been utilised.
This compact Maxol/Mace forecourt site sits on an 11,000 sq. ft. plot at the edge of the carriageway on the Dublin-bound M3.
And while designers only had a modest 9,000 sq. ft. of indoor space with which to work, the resulting plaza is a triumph of modern retail planning. Perpetually bright, the high-ceilinged interior and calm, pastel-shaded decor creates a soothing and comfortable environment in which even the most harassed of motorists might snatch a moment or two of unexpected relief.
Yet, there’s not an inch of wasted space here. Site franchisees – Mace, Supermac’s, Insomnia, Chopped and a branch of Maxol’s own healthy food brand, Moreish – run the length of the sales floor in a easily accessed strip with seating for around 60 diners in front of the big, plate-glass forecourt windows and along a quieter, mezzanine level upstairs.
The level of quiet, practical innovation on display at Mulhuddart was a principal driver behind its success at this year’s IFCR Awards. These took place in central Dublin during September, when Keith and the staff at the site managed a remarkable double. Despite trading only since April this year, they went to the stage twice during the evening to collect the Newcomer of the Year and Forecourt Retailer of the Year awards.
Speaking to this magazine at Mulhuddart recently, Keith said that he felt the site had been in with a good chance at the Newcomer title, but added:
“Because the competition was so high profile and because we were a relatively new store, I didn’t really think that we would be in with a chance for the overall Forecourt title, so that was definitely a surprise to all of us.”
At 41, Sutton-born Keith is already a veteran retailer. A very brief flirtation with hotel management during his early 20s ended abruptly when he realised that his ambitions lay elsewhere and for much of the time since, he has worked for Musgrave, managing Centra outlets in and around Dublin. He’s also spent time on the payroll at Texaco and Shell – he has “petrol in the blood”, he claims.
“I’ve always done a customer-facing job, working with the public, that’s where I feel most comfortable,” he goes on. “And I enjoy the challenge of growing a business. All of the sites that I worked on for Centra would have been new, I opened and developed them, so when this opportunity came up, the challenge was irresistible.”
The Mulhuddart M3 site is run by licensees Liam and Donal Fitzpatrick. Both familiar faces on the Irish forecourt scene, the pair are also behind the phenomenally successful Junction 14 site at Mayfield and the New Lodge filling station at Monasterevin.
They recruited Keith in February of this year to manage the development of the site and the recruitment of staff, with a deliberate focus on locally-based candidates, many of whom bring a level of knowledge of the area and its customers that Keith feels is essential to the long-term success of the site.
“In terms of the business itself, all our initial projections have been achieved since we opened in April,” says Keith. “At present, Maxol are very happy with the results, but the Fitzpatricks do feel that there is still more potential here and I am on the same page with them on that. That said, growth has been steady, particularly over the last two months. The car wash has been very successful and the food elements are all doing well.”
Something which wasn’t included when the store opened six months ago was a fully-fledged truck stop. Keith concedes that after a few weeks, they realised that there was demand for the service and they are now working to put this in place.
Marketing of the new site is currently a key objective. Keith is particularly keen to target potential customers travelling into Dublin along the motorway from areas such as Cloneen and Dunboyne. This is being achieved via a number of channels, including social media, but 20,000 leaflets have also just been distributed to local homes and businesses in partnership with Supermac’s.
Sponsorship of worthy causes is seen as an ideal way to help the community around the site while simultaneously lifting the profile of the business and Mulhuddart M3 recently offered its support to a ‘Mammys’ Day’ GAA competition at St. Peter’s National School in Dunboyne. Keith is currently looking for other sponsorship opportunities in the area.
Also, they are busy forming better relationships with staff at businesses in the nearby Damastown Industrial Park. Already, employees from park tenants, IBM and facebook, are able to avail of a range of revolving benefits at the station and Keith is keen to see that sort of partnership extended to other local companies.
“All-in-all, we are in a happy place at present,” says Keith. “But we do feel, over the next couple of months between now and early next year, we should be looking at stepping things up.
In the longer term, Keith wants to see the plans for a truck stop at Mulhuddart M3 successfully implemented and he says that over time, the food franchisees will develop their individual offerings:
“For example, Chopped is about to introduce a breakfast menu,” he adds. “Only three out of 11 of these outlets currently do that and we’re going to be one of them. That should be available by November.
“And we’re also looking at more partnerships with branded companies. Coca-Cola have already approached us about a display in our porch area that will be exclusive to this site.
“In the car park, we currently have space for 60 cars and seven trucks. We’re looking to increase that provision so that we can increase capacity on the site.
“So there’s a lot going on and a lot of potential still to be exploited here and I’m really looking forward to working with everyone here to make that happen,” he continues.
“Winning awards such as these from IFCR are very important. They are important for Maxol because they draw attention to the design and the innovation that have gone into creating this site. They are good for the Fitzpatricks because from their perspectives as licensees, it’s a positive reflection on how they do business, and it’s a great achievement for the management and staff. It’s good for morale.
“The first six months have been hard work, these awards are a recognition of that and now we are ready to get on with everything else that needs to be done. It’s been a great start,” says Keith