Maxol Group CEO, Brian Donaldson, reveals the company’s ambitious €20m investment programme for 2022, as well as noting the factors that are contributing to a strong performance this year.
Maxol have announced a €20m investment programme for 2022 across multiple sites, including Sandyford, Castletroy, Kilkenny, Clarecastle and Donore Road, having already invested over €7m in the business in 2021. The announcement was made by Brian Donaldson, CEO of The Maxol Group, who also provided an update on the performance of Maxol’s retail business during 2020 and highlighted the contribution that staycations made to a stronger forecasted H2 performance in the current year.
The latest figures for the company showed a profit before exceptional items of €17.1m for 2020, a not unexpected fall of 7.5% on 2019 given the Covid-19 impact on trading conditions, which included 5km travel limits and rolling lockdowns.
Notwithstanding the challenging conditions that prevailed between January and May 2021 that included Brexit and full or partial lockdowns, the outlook for the full year 2021 is positive and is set to outperform 2020, according to Brian.
“There are a number of factors that have contributed to the strong company performance since May, but we have pinpointed one that has probably had the most positive impact on our business. The significant rise in staycations provided not only the tourism sector with a bounce, but the forecourt and convenience sector has also been a beneficiary,” says Brian. “Not only were consumers visiting our forecourts for fuel, but the Maxol network proved a convenient pit-stop for snacks, confectionery and deli items and we anticipate that this trend will continue for the coming months.”
2021 investment programme
While the impact of Covid-19 saw a number of development and refurbishment programmes delayed, Maxol continued to invest in the business. A €7m investment programme in 2021 included the refurbishment of two key sites in Ballycoolin, Dublin 15, and Riverside in Navan, Co. Meath. The multimillion euro investment programme, which extended to a number of sites across the country, also saw the introduction of drive-thru Burger Kings, new indoor seating areas, extended outdoor seating areas, additional car parking spaces, car wash upgrades, the creation of more retail space, larger Maxol deli counters and the introduction of premium fuel pumps to additional sites as part of Maxol’s carbon neutral programme, which sees 100% carbon emissions off-set on premium fuel purchases.
“Our investment programme was an important undertaking not only in terms of alignment to our growth strategy, but because we have a strong sense of purpose that includes recognising the role we can play in helping to rebuild local economies,” Brian insists. “Maxol isn’t just a national brand, it’s a local brand. Our sites are run by local people, employing local people, serving local people. This model has served us well for more than 100 years and its vigour was tested, and resilience proven during the past 20 months.”
Robust model – new foundations in food and grocery
While people moved in their droves to shop online during the height of the pandemic, an increase in eCommerce doesn’t mean that high street or convenience stores will become obsolete, according to Brian Donaldson.
“There are many advantages to online shopping and indeed, a move to online kept many Irish businesses afloat when their doors were shut. But consumers have not abandoned what they see as a more experiential, personal way to shop that isn’t purely transactional. People are sociable beings by nature and our network model, and the importance we place on our foodservice, stood up to the test of significant behavioural change during Covid-19,” says Brian.
Over the past five years, Maxol has been transitioning from its position as a fuel brand selling food and grocery to a convenience food service brand that also sells fuel, along with other energies for mobility.
“If anything, the Covid-19 crisis proved the robustness of our evolving business model,” explains Brian. “While fuel sales dropped by up to 70% during the first week of lockdown, sales of food and grocery remained strong. Many people didn’t want to shop in large, busier stores so their local Maxol became the go-to for their everyday essentials.”
The Maxol Group are investing in more eat-in areas in forecourts where there is space to expand and the aim is to become a destination for friends and families looking to catch up over a cup of coffee, a hot meal or a freshly prepared lunch from the deli.
“We are growing our food offering all of the time and are gearing up for the launch of our third drive-thru Burger King at Ballycoolin in Dublin, together with our first Apache Pizza outlet in Donabate, Co. Dublin,” notes Brian.
Maxol are partnering with another Irish family business, OKR Group, on these well-known food franchise brands, responding to the growing demand for hot, freshly prepared food at mealtimes. This will be Maxol’s first foray into home delivery with Apache Pizza, which will offer customers greater choice and convenience from local, family providers.
Local and loyal
Supporting local has always been a priority for Maxol and 65% of the company’s bakery and deli goods are sourced from local producers, including scones from O’Keeffe’s Bakery in Cork, apple turnovers from the family-owned Golden Bake company in Dublin, while Milish Foods (Dublin) produce Maxol’s range of muffins and Coolhill Farm in Wexford make the brand’s traybakes, such as Rocky Roads. Using Irish milk and cream, familyowned Silver Pail in Cork supply Maxol with their new ice-cream brand, N’ice Cream.
Freshly brewed coffee is a key driver of customer loyalty and Maxol’s exclusive Rosa coffee brand is expected to hit €9m in sales this year, the most popular variant being a 12oz Americano.
Soft drinks are the biggest selling category product in Maxol service stations, accounting for 22% of total shop sales, followed by confectionery (22%) and dairy (13.5%).
Car wash – future proof
More than 600,000 vehicles will pass through a Maxol car wash this year, with 36% of all car washes taking place at the weekend. While volumes were hit during the January-March lockdown period, Brian stresses that the car wash facility is a critical part of the Maxol offering that will endure long after the demise of internal combustion engine vehicles.
“A staple of the forecourt model, which is an often overlooked and undervalued jewel in the crown, is the car wash facility,” he states. “As we transition to alternative fuelled vehicles, we can’t forget that they too will need to be washed. And, by making our car wash more environmentally friendly, using recycled rainwater wherever possible, we are future-proofing a key, sustainable service offering that is really important to our business.”
Maxol invested €600k in rebranding and upgrading Maxol car wash facilities in 2021.
Reducing carbon footprint
Maxol’s environmental journey continues to evolve as the company look to reduce their environmental footprint and support customers in making more sustainable choices. Maxol were one of the first retailers to offer 100% compostable cups and lids, discounts are provided to customers who use a reusable cup when purchasing hot drinks, and the company has been installing compostable and recyclable bins across its service stations to support customers’ recycling efforts.
The company recently marked the first full year of its carbon offsetting programme that aims to offset 100% of carbon emissions with its premium fuel range, which has fewer pollutants and is now available at 40 Maxol sites. The programme also supports a number of green initiatives such as the planting of 10,000 trees in Ireland, local community projects and global projects designed to off-set carbon emissions.
“The Maxol Group are very transparent and also very serious about our commitment to the environment and investing in ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” highlights Brian. “We do not pretend to be something that we are not. We sell diesel and we sell petrol and will continue to do so as long as these fuels are needed. There’s no silver bullet that will suddenly transform the automotive market overnight, but we are looking at all of the ways that our business can change and make better, greener choices. Every investment and every decision begins with an examination of the impact it will have on the environment; we take a ‘sustainable first’ approach to every operational decision.
We are working with KPMG on a programme that will allow us to better benchmark and measure our carbon savings year-on-year and that is an important step in our sustainable journey.”
The journey for Maxol continues following the celebration of their centenary in 2020. 12 new dealer sites were added to the Maxol network during 2021, bringing the total number of Maxol service stations around Ireland to 242. More than 80 people are employed directly and more than 1,000 indirectly by The Maxol Group across the island of Ireland.