Shell rebranding a 'game changer' for Nr Fuels & Convenience in Woodstock, Ont.

Strong brand recognition and partnerships prompted operator to make the switch.
Sahib Batth Head shot
Nr Fuels owner Sahib Batth (Photos by Jaime Hogge)

The modern-day red and yellow Shell Pecten (Latin for scallop) that graces the fuel company’s more than 45,000 stations around the world was introduced by American industrial designer Raymond Loewy in 1971. It has gone on to become one of the most recognizable logos in the world, so powerful that the company can be identified even if the name is not attached.

Doug Granger, owner of Granger Fuels, a Shell fuels wholesaler based in London, Ont., says that for many motorists, the Pecten is synonymous with quality. “There are a lot of consumers who, if they’re driving down the street and they see three gas stations and one of them is a Shell, they’ll go there,” says Granger. “It’s a premium product, it’s well-recognized, and they know the quality and service they’re going to get.”

Shell’s longstanding partnership with the Air Miles loyalty program (which received a “multi-year” contract extension in November) is also a major customer draw, says Granger. So, too, is the fuel company’s new partnership with the CAA, which enables members to save 3 cents per litre on fuel, and 10% off both car wash and in-store purchases.

Its brand and strong partnerships were among the reasons that Nr Fuels & Convenience owner Sahab Batth decided to make the switch to Shell as his five-year contract with Gulf Canada approached its expiration date in 2022. Shell had been the fuel supplier when Batth purchased the business in 2017, but he had switched over to Gulf when his contract wasn’t renewed.

At the time, Gulf had only recently returned to Canada in 2015 after a 30-year absence, and didn’t possess nearly the same brand recognition as its larger rival. Its lack of any major loyalty program partner was also a potential hindrance—particularly as inflationary pressures have caused consumers to rely on rising costs for everyday essentials. In a 2022 survey by the mobile rewards program Drop, 62% of respondents said that they are redeeming loyalty points in order to better manage expenses.

With his contract expiring, Batth approached Granger about potentially renewing his relationship with Shell. The two men had several discussions, ultimately agreeing on a 10-year contract commencing in February 2022. 

One year in and it's been a “game changer,” says Batth, who owns and operates Nr Fuels & Convenience as a family business. “It’s worked out for both sides”

Big picture of Nr Fuels site
Shell gas pump photo
It cost slightly less than $30,000 to reskin the station’s four pumps and change pin pads
Shell gas pump photo
It cost slightly less than $30,000 to reskin the station’s four pumps and change pin pads

The changeover to Shell branding officially got underway on Feb. 1, and Nr Fuels & Convenience was open for business by noon the next day. Because the station’s tanks and the pumps had been installed by Shell in 2011, it didn’t require extensive investment in new equipment beyond the Shell branding, says Batth.

According to Granger, it cost slightly less than $30,000 to reskin the station’s four pumps (12 nozzles, four of which are for diesel) and change the pay-at-the-pump pin pads in order to connect the station to Shell’s payment system.

Batth says the business benefits from Shell’s strong tech support. “Anytime I report something, it doesn’t go on the slow burner,” he says. “I’m very impressed by that approach.”

Exterior image of two cars in the car wash
The attached coin car wash attracts locals, who drive pickup trucks

The change to Shell quickly resulted in a “very positive” increase in sales for Nr Fuels & Convenience, not just at the pumps, but also at the convenience stores and attached coin car wash, which Batth estimates is 10 or 12 years old, but well maintained. The tire inflation and vacuum equipment (from AIR-serv Canada) are also busy. 

“Woodstock is mainly a farming and industrial area and the working people usually have big pickup trucks,” he says. “This car wash is fun for them and good business for us as they enjoy brush cleaning their vehicles.”

According to Granger, fuel sales by volume increased between 22% and 29% over the previous year, equating to between 400,000 and 500,000 extra litres of fuel. 

And it’s not like the business is achieving this level of success amidst a dearth of competition. It is situated on Norwich Ave. a major north-south artery in the city of 40,000 that also includes a Petro-Canada station, a Canadian Tire Gas+, an Esso, and a Pioneer station all in close proximity. 

Batth, meanwhile, is “more than satisfied” with once again being a Shell proprietor. “Gas sales, store sales and even our propane business has increased” he says, adding he works with Vomar Industries (Tank Traders), while Superior supplies propane for the cylinder filling station. “We are serving customers the way Shell serves them, and we’re back in a good place now.”

Article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of OCTANE.

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