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Retail upgrade call as margins fall

AS PETROL sale margins fall petrol station owners are turning their stations into mini supermarkets.

New Indian oil refineries threaten to cause cheap Indonesian and Singapor-ean fuel to flood Australia, cutting the margins further.

Specialist car servicing franchises such as Ultra Tune and Automasters are rapidly taking the place of the local garage.

Convenience Stores Australasia executive director Barry Anderson said convenience stores were not the cheapest on the block but were becoming popular.

Ampol brand stations in Eaton, South Hedland and Karratha are among the convenience store turnover leaders for Caltex in Australia.

“A convenience store’s average sale is about $5. They do about 20 per cent of their business between 11:00pm and 4:00am,” Mr Anderson said.

Ampol Yale owner John Kaufer recently turned his service station into a convenience store and said his sales had increased 40 per cent on the past year.

Perth builder K Mountain & Co has been involved with many petrol station to convenience store conversions for Shell, BP and Mobil.

K Mountain owner Kim Mountain said the company undertook all but two of the station upgrades for Mobil when it returned to WA and took over Amgas.

The company is now working for Caltex, upgrading its WA-based Caltex and Ampol stations.

K Mountain manager Brett Marsland said the upgrades were designed to sharpen the focus on retail shop sales and lift the image of the station.

“The whole idea is to get people into the shops,” Mr Marsland said.

Cost of upgrades range from $15,000 to $200,000 with an average of about $30,000 per site.

Mr Marsland said K Mountain had some input into the upgrade designs.

“We’ve done enough now to know what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

K Mountain marketing manager Murray Simcock said “good design turns browsers into buyers”.

Mr Mountain said his company was successful because “we realise when you walk on site with a hammer in your hand, the station starts losing trade”.

“We refurbished a site in Thornlie where the budgeted completion time was twelve weeks. We finished in six weeks.

“If we allow a petrol station to lose custom, it’s hard for that station to get that custom back.”

In one case the company brought in a semitrailer-mounted industrial kitchen so the station would not lose its regular fast food trade.

Although the company has been involved with all the recent Caltex/ Ampol upgrades from Port Hedland to Esperance, it is not guaranteed continued work.

Mr Mountain said the company had to quote for every job.

“When we quoted on a job in Norseman, Brett (Marsland) flew to Norseman to discuss the quote than back again to present it,” he said.

“People in the country are not used to people from the city being hands on.”

Mr Mountain said oil companies would keep upgrading their shop designs in an attempt to stay one up on their competitors.

“BP did the initial big push, then Shell improved on what BP had done. Caltex picked it up and took it a step further. Now BP is looking to revamp again,” he said.

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