Gwalia Garage, situated on the A485 near Carmarthen has recently undergone a major refurbishment of both forecourt and shop as new owners Stephen and Karen Smith of Evans & Jones Ltd prepare the site to meet the future needs of the local community.
With a proven business, established 3 miles away at Tanerdy Garage, the addition of Gwalia, now resplendent in Gulf’s new forecourt livery, unlocks the benefits of a multi-site operation and creates exciting new opportunities for owners and staff.
Tanerdy Garage is a rural success story, pumping over 4m litres a year and with shop takings of £35k a week. At the heart of its local community, its convenience store includes an on-site kitchen that generates hot food to go, own brand ready meals and bakery sales totalling over £200,000 annually.
The benefits of a multi-site operation
“Adding a second site has been a very positive step for us, our staff and the local community,” enthuses Stephen Smith. “In just a few months we’ve already seen the benefits of investing over £150k on a refurbishment which includes new pumps and back office system and the removal of a house to create additional customer parking. A 1000sq ft shop has now been transformed into a 2,500 sq ft mini mart equipped to meet the daily and weekly shopping needs of both local people and the tourist trade. Gwalia shop sales have already grown from £600 to almost £3,000 a day and fuel volumes are up 15% and on target for 2.3mlpa.
The site, which sits on a large plot which offers opportunities for further development if required, was acquired in November 2018 with fuel supplies tied to Murco until June 2019. At the end of the contract period, the Gulf brand was introduced. Under the Gulf brand and now with the introduction of Endurance premium grade fuels and the imminent start of Gulfs Oomph forecourt loyalty platform, fuel sales of 3m litres is considered achievable within 12 months”
Gulf – an exceptional partner
“We have a strong relationship with Gulf and both sites now fly the new livery,” continues Stephen. “The new look is very popular with our customers and has a strong roadside presence, particularly at night. Gulf Retail and its people from area manager, order office and tanker drivers are in tune with our business and they have been an exceptional partner since we parted ways with Shell almost 8 years ago. We’ve established together a very healthy and open relationship built on trust and flexibility. Gulf’s commitment to our business extends from general know how and a competitive pricing strategy to flexible arrangements in respect of deliveries and loads. That, and their prompt response to any issues that arise, is worth many thousands of pounds (£) to us over a year.”
“The management at Gulf were aware that we were interested in growing our site portfolio. Gulf provided expert advice and support that started the ball rolling with Gwalia. Now we can both reap the rewards.”
A business operation tailored to its community
Community features prominently in the business operation and Stephen and Karen are both active in their efforts to protect the local economy by sourcing locally, creating employment and supporting local initiatives. As a former district nurse, Karen knew only too well the vulnerability and loneliness facing many people during the Covid-19 pandemic and was instrumental in arranging a home delivery service, taking phone orders, putting together boxes of provisions and then delivering to the front door.
“We have many customers who are old and living in rural areas, often without any outside help,” says Karen. “It was the least we could do at a time when they were anxious and frightened. We were able to reassure them that they were not alone and although some now feel able to go out and shop, we are still delivering on a daily basis.“
The purchase of Gwalia Garage has also been welcomed by the local community, delighted that the future of the garage and its Post Office are safe.
“Protecting the long term future of the on-site sub post office is a great relief to the many people who rely on the services provided,” continues Stephen. “Since taking over the post office we’ve realised just how important a post office is to its community, especially now so many rural banks have closed or are under threat. We’ve undertaken a rigorous training programme to qualify as sub postmasters. Tanerdy also has its own sub post office. Running two sites is hard work but with both sites in proximity we are able interchange staff which makes things a lot easier. The benefits of moving from a £1.7m to a £2.5m retail business are significant. There are substantial savings to be had on the purchase of almost everything. For example, we can now buy pallets of beer at very competitive prices without the worries that stock will be sat on the shelves for long periods. It is making a huge difference to our bottom line.”
Developing a strong forecourt team and nurturing talent
Alongside the economies of size and scale, Stephen gains particularly satisfaction from the positive impact it is making on his staff of 24.
“We have a fantastic team, all loyal, hardworking and committed to the business. Two sites adds a new dynamic for everyone and increases the opportunities for career development within Evans & Jones Ltd. Our staff range from the ages of 15 to 81 and include my daughter Anna who joined us from 6th form college. Many of our team have worked with us for a decade or more. We are very passionate about our work and we also enjoy a laugh. There is never a dull moment working in petrol and convenience retailing. It is a challenging role that demands strong customer service skills alongside an understanding of food hygiene laws, health and safety, the responsibility of taking in deliveries and sales techniques. You also have to be a real team player who can bring out the best in others, even at peak times when the demands and pressure are turned up a notch. We provide ongoing training and do our best to nurture talent. Within our team we now have an experienced postmistress, a highly talented chef and an IT expert who we took under our wing when he was just 15. Sean Rice has designed and developed our two food delivery apps, our web site, our instore media messaging system and is constantly looking at ways to enhance our marketing activity and stock management. He is still only 22. Phil Davies on the other hand is not so young. He joined us in 1995 but continues to be a driving force, managing our day to day operation.”
Enhancing the customer offering with Oomph
The immediate future for Gwalia will see the completion of a sizeable kitchen, now under construction, fully equipped to produce a full range of breads and cakes, home cooked ready meals and fish and chips to compliment the traditional food to go favourites including pizzas and burgers. Both sites already utilise two home delivery apps and have a reputation for the quality of their home delivered foods. In addition, the site is about to launch Oomph, Gulf new loyalty platform to further enhance its customer offering.
“Oomph is well thought through and has the ability to make a very positive contribution to our business,” concludes Stephen. “It’s a clever scheme the allows cross promotions, builds loyalty, drives up shop sales and also gives the customer plenty of reasons to return. I’m not surprised that Gulf is the first fuel supplier to invest in a promotion of this type; almost entirely designed to drive up shop sales, not fuel. It’s impressive and says everything about Gulfs commitment to its Dealers and their understanding of the importance of convenience retailing, now and in the future. We value Gulf both as a fuel supplier and expert business partner.”