Belfast Telegraph

Maxol looks at non-fuel retail in drive to prepare for future

By Gavin McLoughlin

Maxol is mulling over a move into non-fuel retail as it seeks to insulate itself against the effect of electric cars on the forecourt business.

The company, which is owned by the McMullan family from Northern Ireland, is extending the Maxol brand from fuel to food as it seeks to grow in the higher margin food sector.

It has around 100 petrol stations in Northern Ireland - including a motorway-style service station at Tannaghmore, Co Antrim.

It also plans to open a large site outside Newry.

Maxol chief executive Brian Donaldson, who is from Co Down, said the company had set aside a 'fighting fund' for potential acquisitions, designed to help the company diversify.

Areas the company are looking at include entering new energy markets, taking new food franchises into Ireland, and establishing standalone sites that do not provide fuel (so-called 'dry sites').

"What we're looking at is where the business will be in 2030. You need to start putting your strategy in place now," Mr Donaldson said.

"What we're looking at is: do we go into new energy markets, do we take ourselves onto the high street, do we start looking at standalone dry sites, do we look at taking a food franchise and taking that to the high street, do we look at supply chain and actually strengthening our supply chain by taking a shareholding?"

The company is also looking to refurbish 70 stores between now and this time next year as it seeks to lift the quality of food it provides, alongside improving the in-store experience.

"We'll be extending our name and label to milk, bread, cheeses, fresh produce and snacks.

"What we're looking at in terms of our in-store offering is almost trying to set that Avoca-type standard in terms of the ingredients and the quality of ingredients that go into our sandwiches, our prepared meals," Mr Donaldson added.

The company is competing with large rivals including the stock market listed Applegreen, Canadian business Couche Tard, which bought Topaz and has just rebranded it as Circle K, and Valero which owns the Texaco chain of stations.

Belfast Telegraph

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