When Andrew Williams took over the running of Hillcroft Garage from his father he was faced with a situation that confronts many Dealers. The site was in need of refurbishment but what level of investment would optimise the return? Located in Langstone near Newport on one of the main feeder roads to Newport and close to Junction 24 of the M4, the site has had the benefit of a growing residential population near-by and a thriving 23 acre business park.
“Hillcroft was successful, had a good reputation locally, a highly experienced and hardworking forecourt team and a steady flow of customers each day to the forecourt, shop, MOT bay and workshops,” explains Andrew. “We recognised the potential to upgrade the forecourt and shop and wanted to make every penny count. We turned to Gulf for help. We had a strong relationship with Gulf and respected their knowledge and experience. We also knew that they were hard at work developing competitive third party supplier arrangements utilising the size and scale of Certas Energy. That is how we gravitated towards Spar, another expert in its field. Between Gulf and Spar we received excellent support and the peace of mind to take the next step.”
Hand in hand with Gulf
In late 2018, Andrew invested over £100k, refurbishing the forecourt and creating a 2000 sq ft mini supermarket. The forecourt overhaul included relining tanks, relaying pipework, paving the forecourt and upgrading the canopy. New Tatsuno quad pumps with digital display screens and a new back office system were also introduced. The new Spar convenience store comprised a large chilled area, off license fresh produce section and a Daily Deli with hot food to go including Chicago town pizza, breakfast rolls and fresh Panini’s.
“We couldn’t be happier with the results and the impact it has had,” enthuses Andrew. “There can be no better example of Gulf’s consultative approach with its Dealers. Their open and honest partnership approach is about protecting our livelihood and enabling us to increase profitability across every aspect of our business. Working together, the business has been transformed and we are now looking at the next step forward which could include extending the size of the shop and relocating the workshops to increase the forecourt area and improve traffic flow. With Gulfs support and my superb Hillcroft team, led by Gaynor Grist, we have been set on a very exciting path.”
Delivering the best experience
General Manager, Gaynor Grist manages a team of 11 staff, all committed to the success of Hillcroft Garage and the driving force and energy behind the success of the convenience store and retail operation.
”Everything we do is about enhancing the customer experience,” enthuses Gaynor. “It starts with a warm welcome to our site which is always spotlessly clean, fully stocked and ready to serve. We were the winners of Best Gulf Site in last year’s national SuperStation Awards which says everything about the sites presentation and facilities. We are competitively priced both in the shop and on the forecourt with summer offerings such as milkshakes, slushies and Fwip ice creams alongside the fresh and local cupcakes, pastries and pies. It is becoming a food heaven for our locals and reinforces the importance of understanding the clientele and stocking accordingly. We’re up from around £60 to £450 a day on hot food and it’s still growing!”
Fuel volumes are up by over 20% inside two years whilst shop sales have gone through the roof! From £16k a week and around 400 visits each day, Hillcroft now exceeds £30k and almost 1100 visits. The introduction of Oomph, Gulfs forecourt loyalty platform, provides yet another reason for staff to engage with customers and keep rewarding their loyalty.
“We know most of our customers and have a great rapport with them,” continues Gaynor. “Oomph gives us another topic of conversation, we will create a buzz around the monthly prizes and the rewards available. We now have more tools at our disposal to cross promote between shop and forecourt, increasing our range of in store offers. It’s an ideal support mechanism to protect what has already been achieved and give every customers yet another reason to shop with us.”
Part of the local community
There is a strong relationship between Hillcroft Garage and Langstone village and any initiatives are always enthusiastically backed by members of staff. These include ongoing support for Langstone Primary School, providing food for their cinema days and Xmas fete’s and selling raffle tickets at Christmas. The Hillcroft team and their customers are also passionate supporters of a popular local charity, Fions gift, raising money on the forecourt to buy lifesaving equipment.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put into sharp focus the value of the forecourt within its community, shop turnover rising significantly and the site undertaking free home deliveries for those in self isolation.
“It has been a very strange time,” concludes Gaynor. “ We’ve introduced a whole range of cleansing and distancing protocols and many more shoppers have seen the merits of shopping local in comparison with the large supermarket. We have a great team, everyone takes real pride in their work and sense of achievement. We’ve navigated through the past five months with only one member of staff on furlough and that was with her blessing as she was over 60. That has meant so much, we are a close knit team, supporting the vulnerable in our society and being available to meet the needs of the community is important to us all.”