A glimpse at the fuel station of the future

No one could have imagined that the simple filling stations of the 1970s would one day morph into the enormous service stations dotting our highways today, with their vast selection of franchise food stores, playgrounds, shops and multitude of petrol pumps. In the same way, it’s hard for us to conceive what the fuel stations of the future will look like. What we do know, though, is that they’ll be markedly different to what’s on offer today.
Not that this change will happen overnight, says Vishal Premlall, National Director of the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) representing approximately 750 fuel stations countrywide. He explains that most of the changes will be ushered in by the introduction of electronic vehicles, but already stations like Big Bird N1 Freeway Midrand, located between Johannesburg and Pretoria, are transforming and provide a prime example of a fuel station gearing for the future. The station offers a pharmacy, as well as a variety of dining options and even online shopping depots.
“This positions it to cater to consumers who would otherwise have to veer off route, into a suburban shopping mall, to obtain such supplies. In short, customers can get everything they need without leaving the highway. It is all about the customer experience,” says Premlall.
Premlall says it is interesting to see the transformation. The new-look stations are all starting to factor in the possibility of customers staying longer at their stations. How will these customers be entertained, and what kind of experience are they expecting – especially in the retail space? What kind of value adds can a petrol station offer in the name of differentiation? These are all questions worth considering, especially as the customer evolves from one who is prone to ducking in to the forecourt shop for an impulse buy or last minute purchase, to one who is looking for a way to kill time. In fact, the entire model must change to place the customer, rather than the car, firmly at the centre. “Ultimately they will need to be designed in such a way as to make trips to the fuel station more frequent and for reasons that have little to do with filling up,” says Premlall.
Where once forecourt stores represented the ultimate in convenience, tomorrow’s customer may expect a fully-fledged supermarket, wi-fi-equipped work stations, hot desks with meet and greet facilities, and coffee shops. This also makes a station’s destination an important consideration. If en route convenience is no longer an issue, what will motivate drivers to choose one station over another? And linked to this, what kind of services should be in place to make that choice stick?
Winstone Jordaan of GridCars agrees, saying the presence of such services on the highway is key. In fact, he maintains that highways stations will prove more enduring than their city-based counterparts, mainly because the latter can’t match the offerings that would keep a customer busy while charging an electric vehicle in the future. “If you’re looking to charge somewhere that doesn’t mean hopping off and back on the highway, a forecourt shopping center is a far more obvious choice,” he says.
Interestingly the current challenges during COVID-19 have also, to some extent, accelerated the change. “It has forced business introspection, resulting in business owners adopting leaner management strategies, reduced staff operations, repurposing of the product basket in the convenience store and relooking at the offering on a needs basis. “The pandemic has exponentially accelerated a level of creative and innovative thinking that now makes the traditional business model look archaic. One thing is certain: although we can’t be sure, exactly, what the fuel station of the future will look like, we can be certain that it won’t have much in common with the features we’re familiar with today. Clearly business unusual appears to be the new norm and the early change adopters will be winners,” concludes Premlall.

Fuel retailers emphasise the need to protect communities

The South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), representing approximately 750 fuel stations countrywide, is standing behind its staff members, who are deemed essential workers, by requesting all customers wear masks when visiting any of their convenience stores.
This week a local fuel station was criticised for requesting masks be worn by customers using its C Store. The customer was asked instead to place an order at the outside service window.
“We understand that this may have taken the customer by surprise, but it indicates our commitment to keeping our staff safe,” says SAPRA Director, Vishal Premlall.
The question of wearing a mask has been hotly debated ever since the coronavirus outbreak first started.
In the Czech Republic, a highly successful mask campaign has been promoted with the slogan “I protect you, you protect me” – which is precisely what wearing a mask is all about. Premlall says this is exactly why the organisation has asked that customers at fuel stations and their accompanying forecourt shops wear masks. “It’s about accountability,” he points out. “The coronavirus crisis has brought into sharp focus the need for personal accountability and around the world there is a move towards more responsible caring. Wearing a mask is part of this. It’s not merely about making sure that you don’t contract the virus; it’s also taking a proactive step to prevent spreading it if you don’t know that you’ve been infected,” he says.
“This is especially important,” he continues, “because as essential workers, employees at petrol stations, or any other essential service staff for that matter, don’t have the option of staying home. Instead, they risk their health every day, not only on public transport to reach the workplace, but also serving hundreds of customers who may or may not be infected. That’s why our request to wear masks is a serious one. We greatly appreciate the risks that these staff members are taking, and we have the responsibility to repay their bravery by doing all we can to protect them,” he says
That said, Premlall acknowledges that, since wearing a mask is a recommendation rather than a regulation from government at this point, we are simply requesting our customers, in the spirit of embracing a safer future, to wear masks. “While we cannot enforce this as we know some customers don’t have the materials to make their own masks or cannot afford to purchase one, we have made it possible for customers to purchase the goods they require without entering the forecourt shop by ordering through the cashier’s window.”
“At a time when uncertainty and the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis spell anxiety for most, it’s more important than ever to take personal accountability and do what small things we can to look after each other. Together we can help contain the spread of the virus,” he concludes.

Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in fuel retailer and MIOSA case

SAPRA members are advised that the Supreme Court of Appeal delivered judgment (case number 479/2018) in the matter between a fuel retailer and the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA) in the matter concerning the obligation for fuel retailers to register with, and pay levies to MIOSA under the South African Automotive Industry Code, published in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. We attach the judgment hereto for ease of reference, which you can download here.

In short, the Honourable Court ruled that, on condition that fuel retailers are not involved in activities concerning specified vehicles, component parts and accessories of such vehicles, nor render any repair or replacement services connected with such vehicles, they are not legally obliged to register with MIOSA (“excluded fuel retailers”).

Whilst this may be good news to the fuel retail sector of the industry, SAPRA members should be mindful of another aspect associated with the court’s ruling. The court stated that “Consumers of fuel and lubricants are protected under the Consumer Goods and Service Industry Code of Conduct …” (Government Notice R271, Government Gazette no. 38637 of 30 March 2015). This means SAPRA members may have to comply with this Code, instead of the South African Automotive Industry Code.

The SAPRA Team is in the process of obtaining further particulars and advice concerning registration by fuel retailers with the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud, which will be relayed to members in due course.

In the interim, SAPRA members who qualify as excluded fuel retailers, that registered with, and paid levies to MIOSA, should take the following actions:

1. Deregister their businesses with MIOSA and cease payment of these levies; and

2. Submit a claim to MIOSA for a refund of levies paid, which claim should contain proof of registration and detail concerning past payment of levies.

The RMI and SAPRA have secured an undertaking from MIOSA that it will consider every request for deregistration and refund by fuel retailers, on merit; however, should any SAPRA member experience difficulty with this process, that member may contact the SAPRA for assistance and guidance. MIOSA’s contact details are available at http://www.miosa.co.za/contact.php.

SAPRA meets with Ghanian NPA

The South African Petroleum Retailers Association participated in the three day engagement programme with the delegation of experts from the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) of the Republic of Ghana on a benchmark visit to South Africa from 12 to 14 February.

SAPRA Director Vishal Premlall

The visit by the delegation from Ghana is underpinned by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding Cooperation in the Oil and Gas Sectors, signed in 2011. The MoU provides for, among others, the exchange of visits by policy makers and technical experts responsible for the development and implementation of national oil and gas policies. This the third technical visit by the NPA to the South Africa/DoE since 2016.
The meeting was hosted by the National Department of Energy (DoE) at their offices in Pretoria.
The purpose of the NPA’s visit was to understand the licencing processes and regime in the petroleum downstream industry in South Africa.
The NPA was established in terms of Act of Parliament in 2005 to regulate, oversee and monitor activities in the downstream petroleum industry. The Ghanaian downstream sector is an onshore operation that consists of refining, distribution, and marketing of petroleum products.
Avishkar Nandkishore Chief Director of Petroleum Licencing & Fuel Supply at the DoE and his Ghanaian counterpart Daniel Addo Director for Finance at the NPA

The meeting with the delegation was co-chaired by Avishkar Nandkishore: Chief Director of Petroleum Licencing & Fuel Supply at the DoE and his Ghanaian counterpart, Daniel Addo: Director for Finance at the NPA.
The delegation of SAPRA was led by Vishal Premlall: Director of the South African Petroleum Retailers Association, supported by Viv Corinaldi. SAPRA shared on current industry dynamics, including new service station development dynamics, licensing regime, challenges facing petroleum retailers and future prospects.

The meeting also incorporated other stakeholders in the downstream industry including NERSA, Transnet pipeline and the FRA.
Currently Ghana has two oil fields in production – Jubilee field where FPSO Nkrumah (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading) is located and salt pond. This follows the first discovery of oil in 2007 and initial production in 2010.
Earlier this year the country discovered an estimated 450-550 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) in the Pecan field, 166 kilometres off Takaradi’s coast.

Who is SAPRA?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Learn more about the South African Petroleum Retailers Association and how we represent the interest of all petroleum retailers in South Africa and help make fuel retailing a business of choice for investors.
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SAPRA annual review

Find attached an annual review of the South African Petroleum Retailers Association (SAPRA) for the year ending June 2018.
We thank you for your participation and look optimistically forward to the next 12 months.
Download the document below
[ddownload id=”36638″ text=”SAPRA Reflection”]