As Chris Soucie, director of sales and marketing at McCowan Design & Manufacturing, tells clients, “your site’s forecourt is the first impression customers get of your business.”
From lighting to layout and new features like EV charging stations, the forecourt is in the midst of major modernization and evolution, particularly as fuel stations look to remake themselves as longer-visit destinations.
Experts in retail fuel design share the big changes they are seeing in the forecourt today, and those on the horizon.
Light of day
Flattering indoor lighting helps “ring the cash register” by making merchandise visible and vibrant. If you want to make the fuel forefront and/or fuel island a 24-hour branding and revenue driver, as well, the same holds true.
Lighting manufacturers recommend light sources with a high CRI (colour rendering index), which is a measure on a scale of 0 to 100 of a source’s ability to reproduce the colours of different objects like natural light. At the bottom of the scale, colours appear duller than in daytime and similar to one another, reducing eye-catching contrast. Lighting with a 90 or higher CRI (an “excellent” rating) performs like daylight in illuminating objects.
Jim Rodd, sales manager at Red Leonard Associates, which represents manufacturers in the petroleum industry, is a big fan of Cree Lighting. According to Cree, its patented TrueWhite Technology high-CRI LED lighting keeps brand colours, logos and canopy columns as well as promotional signage looking the same day and night.
“Instead of basic lights, we’re using these fancier lights,” says Rodd, who adds that cool white lights also provide a sense of security versus fluorescent overhead illumination.
Location, location, location
Late last year, Parkland said it would increase the number of ultra-fast EV charging stations at On the Run locations along highways and destinations between Vancouver Island and Calgary from 25 to 50, and that they would be positioned “where it’s easy to get in the convenience store,” Darren Smart, Parkland’s SVP of energy transition and corporate development, said in an interview earlier this year. “There are lots of examples in the market where the charger’s off in the corner in a poorly lit area, and that’s where we feel the market has done a disservice to EV customers.”
A Parkland site in North Vancouver, for instance, now features EV chargers just a five-second stroll to the On the Run.
However, installing or relocating EV chargers in close proximity to a convenience store can be a challenging investment and undertaking, notes Linda Thompson, managing partner at Fuel Partners.
“Often it is not feasible, practical or possible to have EV chargers near the store or forecourt. There are a lot of safety and regulation factors to consider, including the compatibility of the wiring required for fuel equipment versus wiring requirements for EV chargers,” she explains. “In retrofit designs, often the placement of chargers is done in the most cost-effective manner. This often means locating EV chargers in an area where the construction will not impact the existing gas or convenience businesses.”
Given those limitations, fuel operators have been thinking outside of the box in building new amenities around EV charging stations. For instance, a Petro-Canada Cookstown station in Ontario on Highway 89, just off Highway 400, features a fenced-in, off-leash dog park next to EV chargers.