Forecourt of the future

February 4, 2021

Much more than refuelling

At a recent conference held by Palmer & Harvey in Luton Hoo Estate, Robert Onion, Chairman of Circle spoke about the forecourt of the future.

As the UK’s largest delivered wholesaler and supplier to over 70 per cent of the country’s petrol stations, Palmer & Harvey is uniquely placed to see how motoring, purchasing and lifestyle habits are changing.

Circle is a brand and design agency specialising in this sector, nationally and internationally. We are also seeing this shift in consumer trends & attitudes to fuelling. We believe that retailers should think about meeting needs of consumers in the future.

The service station experience and environment has changed little in the past 40 years, in some respects it is less appealing with the removal of attendants in the 70’s. Often there are poor service & hygiene standards. Nearly every other retail experience has been transformed from supermarkets to banking, whilst fuelling is still referred to as a ‘distress purchase’.

Our future concept looks at reversing the roles of fuel & convenience, positioning the retail hub at the front of the site to benefit from passing trade in urban locations by making access simple for both pedestrians and drivers.

Fuel is largely a commodotised product now and convenience and retail are the area to win loyalty and maximise site profitability. We also have maximised parking both above and below ground making the customer journey as convenient as possible.

The focus of our concept is the retail hub, which has at its core a café & seating area, flooded by natural daylight. Surrounding the café are smaller retail concessions featuring locally produced goods such as breads, cheeses etc. These create interest and place the emphasis on local communities, helping to ensure that the facility is used on a regular basis by local people and producers.

Wrapping around the central hub is the grocery/convenience element, which could carry a familiar range of products, chilled drinks, snacks, grocery etc. As you can imagine this retail experience would be quite different from the standard ‘shop in box’ format. It could become a place for people to meet, enjoy and return to being at the heart of the community.

Looking more closely at the architectural design, the central hub has an intelligent glazed roof, which would regulate the amount of daylight into the retail space, reducing energy costs.

The ovaloid canopy creates protection from the elements and incorporates photovoltaic cladding, as well as collecting rainwater to be re-used on site. The canopy extends over the ‘rear court’ fuelling facility and ‘click & collect’ zone.

As I mentioned, parking is ample at ground level around the hub and within an underground facility, which reduces overall plot size, allowing customers to spend longer to enjoy the retail facilities.

We have also introduced external seating and lots of natural planting and landscaping, helping to soften urban locations.

Circulation is simple and clearly marked, ensuring a safe environment for pedestrians and drivers alike. Fuelling takes place at the ‘rear court’ where circulation is maximised by use of suspended dispensers moving away from traditional pump islands. This can be both attended or self serve.

We envisage 2 main types of customer journey:

1. Long stay

  • Customer leaves car in parking bay where it is collected and re-charged by an attendant
  • Takes car to underground parking bay to be valeted
  • Collects pre-ordered ‘click & collect’ groceries
  • Customer collects car from underground parking at leisure

2. Short stay

  • Customer collects groceries from ‘click & collect’ drive-thru facility at ‘rear court’
  • Attendant fuels car with petrol, diesel etc.

Hopefully in partnership with likeminded retailers and companies like Palmer & Harvey we can make some of these ideas come to life in the not-too distant future.

Circle is a brand and design consultancy that brings a fresh perspective to brands.

Interesting or relevant?

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