Maxol advocates for larger gas station businesses as fuel sales will fall

Family-run fuel group Maxol is campaigning for a change in retail planning rules to allow for larger forecourt stores as it envisions a future in which selling petrol and diesel accounts for an ever-shrinking portion of its sales.

Chief Executive Brian Donaldson said petrol station retail space is currently limited to 100m², while there is no such cap in Northern Ireland.

Larger forecourt retail space would set Maxol on course to increasingly compete on the turf of other retailers, including supermarkets.

The 100 m² limit may only be exceeded in exceptional cases if this is approved by the municipality.

Mr Donaldson said the relevant planning laws had not been reviewed since 2012 and insisted they were “very outdated”.

Maxol, owned by the McMullan family, has 242 stores across the island of Ireland, including 112 company-owned.

Last year, profit before exceptional items rose 57 percent to 27 million euros as the company continued to benefit from the easing of pandemic restrictions and the rising number of staycationers across the island. The consolidated profit after tax was €22.8 million. The group made a profit of 17.8 million euros in 2019.

In the Republic of Ireland, Maxol’s after-tax profit rose 23 percent last year to €14.1 million.

In Northern Ireland, profit after tax more than doubled last year from £3.1m to £7.6m (€8.7m).

Mr Donaldson said Maxol’s petrol stations in Northern Ireland are much larger which gives it more flexibility in its retail offering.

The group, which is over 100 years old, traditionally focuses more on locations near residential and commercial areas than on freeways or federal roads.

The chief executive said that through the end of August this year, Maxol saw a double-digit percentage drop in its 2022 fuel sales.

“What we’ve seen since September is that the double-digit decline has narrowed to a single-digit decline,” he said. “Volume has not fully recovered to 2019 levels. It’s getting closer after a difficult start.”

“That’s probably not a surprise given the hybrid way of working,” he added.

“Nor is that a surprise as fuel behavior patterns have changed with fuel price. People have and have cut back. But I think what we have benefited from is the large business customer sector that we serve through our fuel card business.”

Mr Donaldson said Maxol’s Dublin sites have been the slowest among its properties to regain trade lost during the pandemic.

“The slower recovering locations would be those closest to Dublin city centre,” he said. “It’s no surprise.”

He also said the company plans to launch two electric vehicle charging stations at Ballycoolin in Dublin and Newbridge in Co Kildare as it continues to evaluate the best service model for consumers as ownership of such vehicles increases.

A dedicated Maxol electric vehicle hub – its first – will open in Kinnegar in Co Down next month.

Maxol is also increasing the number of Burger King locations connected to its service stations from three to nine. Maxol advocates for larger gas station businesses as fuel sales will fall

Fry Electronics Team

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