When Wojciech Lorkievicz decided to expand his forecourt-based business from solely car repairs to include convenience retail, he set himself a big challenge.
But despite no personal experience of the sector, he and his manager, Danny Hunt, have built a thriving forecourt store, generating a weekly turnover of £40,000 and increasing fuel sales twelvefold, from 250 litres a week to more than 3,000.
“In 2013, we took over an old petrol station that was very run down,” Wojciech says. “We’ve thrown everything into it and built it up from scratch. The transformation has been incredible.”
They purchased the petrol station from the family who had run it in the Lincolnshire town of Greylees for more than half a century. But while the existing business focused on used car sales and repairs, the new team quickly spotted a gap in the market.
“We identified, through conversations with customers and online marketing, a need for a well-stocked, convenient and cost-effective store to serve the local town and surrounding villages,” says Wojciech.
He and Danny then set to work tailoring a business to this opportunity, developing a store while simultaneously running the garage, workshop and petrol forecourt.
“We installed second-hand fridges and freezers and put together a shop to the best of our abilities,” recalls Danny. “We went to the local Booker depot and set up an account, bringing in bread, milk, and all the basics.
“It made a huge difference almost immediately: before there was nothing here – no reason to stop unless you wanted fuel. But people told us they wanted hot coffee, newspapers and the lottery. At first we had no idea how to do it, but we contacted Smiths, Jack’s Beans and Camelot and they explained how to stock their products.”
As the business grew, Danny and Woijech had to expand their team. They now have four permanent staff members working across the petrol station and convenience store.
“We’ve been very lucky with the staff we’ve taken on,” Danny says. “They brought lots of retail experience, helping make up for our inexperience, and have contributed massively to the success of the store.”
By January 2016, Danny says, the store had seen “a massive increase in footfall” and was an established part of the local community. But rather than rest on their laurels, the team decided to invest in a refit – spending £40,000 to bring the 1,000sq ft store under the Premier fascia.
“We decided it was time to bring the store up to a professional standard,” Danny says. “Booker gave us excellent advice and we followed it closely – the shelving, counter and flow of the shop was all updated to their specifications.”
The refit also allowed them to meet growing demand for food to go and frozen food.
“More and more people were asking for a sandwich, pasty or drink, as well as chips, pizzas or chicken nuggets for dinner,” says Danny. “So we put in extra chiller and freezer space, bringing in frozen food, snacks and sandwiches from Booker, and pies, sausage rolls and chilled meats from a local butcher. The local food sells well – we also have a lady who does homemade cakes and brownies, which people go mad for.”
In stepping from car mechanics to convenience retail, Danny has found many skills to be “pretty much interchangeable.”
“All the health and safety and legal side of the business is very similar,” he says.
The big difference lies in getting to know the local community. “With cars people just dropped off the keys and away they went, but in retail customers come in and chat to you. They ask you to get involved in local charities and children’s fun days. As a local shop, you’re at the centre of the community.”
Visit my store