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Energy Business Review: Shell’s unmanned Denmark strategy makes sense

By EBR Staff Writer

Shell is to rename the 70 unmanned Metax petrol stations in Denmark Shell Express, committing itself to its automatic site format. This could prove a shrewd move as not only do unmanned sites significantly reduce the time it takes customers to fill their vehicle, but they provide an efficient alternative for over four in 10 of European motorists who visit petrol stations shops but only buy fuel.

‘Content Shell has announced that it plans to rename its Metax petrol stations in Denmark to the Shell Express brand. Shell has 227 stations in Denmark operating under the Shell name and another 70 under Metax. The change of name is part of a global initiative to use the Shell Express branding. The Metax stations, which have been a subsidiary of Shell since 1979, are all wholly unmanned.

The Danish market has the third highest proportion of unmanned sites in Europe after Switzerland and Sweden. At the beginning of 2006, there were 1,050 unmanned sites in Denmark for the use of the public, comprising 51% of the country’s total service station network.

The move signals efforts by Shell to streamline its Danish operations, especially as Metax has historically operated as a separate entity. It is reported that 15 of Metax’s 30 staff will be made redundant. It also represents Shell’s continued commitment to the unmanned, low-cost ‘express’ format. Shell has stated that it takes just three minutes to fill a vehicle at a Shell Express station, compared to an average of six minutes in a traditional retail station, benefiting both the customer and the retailer that wants to increase the amount of traffic it can serve.

There are further benefits of giving customers the choice between a basic, often low-cost, option for purchasing fuel and a service station format which will satisfy their demands for shop products, car washing and so on. When fewer sites in a network have a shop, the number and value of purchases made is significantly higher, suggesting that customers are driven to the site that will best serve their purposes.

Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark, all markets with a high proportion of unmanned sites, have a strikingly positive forecourt shop performance. At those Danish service stations which have a shop, over six in every 10 customers purchase at least one non-fuel item, and in Sweden and Switzerland the figure is over seven in every 10 customers.

Across Europe the average number of shop visitors making shop purchases is around five in every 10. More pertinently, the value of shop items in the average customer basket is higher in Denmark, at E5, and in Sweden, at E5.5. The European average is around E4 and is the same in markets such as the UK and Spain where customers have little choice but to use service stations that also offer non-fuel products.

This creates a strong case for efficiency enhancements through low-cost unmanned sites such as Shell Express, or at least through investment in automated payment facilities to cater for the demands of the 46% of European motorists who visit forecourt shops but drive away with a full tank and no additional purchases. ‘End Intelliext

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