Forecourt retailers are turning their attention to growing the convenience side of their business as the sector pulls in more than £4bn in sales a year.

A new industry report revealed forecourt retailing is entering a new phase with huge potential for growth and change. It states, excluding petrol, forecourts generate more than £4bn annually in sales.

Retailers told RN they believe in the next five to 10 years forecourts could look completely different, with the convenience side of the business completely overtaking petrol in terms of importance.

“There is huge potential. For many forecourts the shop is now the most important part of the business,” said David Charman, of Spar Parkfoot in West Malling.

“In the past the fuel drove the shop, but now the shop is driving the fuel. It’s a natural progression I now describe myself as a convenience store owner who sells fuel, not the other way around.”

Technological improvements mean it is conceivable that electric cars will be fully recharged in 15 minutes and for Mr Charman, that will further open up possibilities for forecourt retailers.

“Car owners will need something to do with those 15 minutes and refuelling won’t be simply a quick in-out procedure. That offers us a huge opportunity.”

Adam Hogwood, manager of Budgens in Broadstairs, said he believes retailers who will prosper will be those who innovate and offer niche services.

“Innovation is driving things forward and in a few years’ time there will be less space for the forecourt and more for other services provided.

“The growth in forecourt retailing and services is only going to get bigger and bigger.”

The 2016 Forecourt Report from the Association of Convenience Stores also revealed coffee is a major part of a modern forecourt with 70% of stores now featuring a coffee machine.