Is the petrol industry facing its “Kodak moment”?

With reports suggesting electric vehicles (EVs) could soon be cheaper than petrol cars there is speculation petrol retailers are facing their “Kodak moment”.

Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), believes this is absolutely not true.

“The government came out two weeks ago with their Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy. They announced that they’re going to roll out 50,000 EV chargers. There are 20 million vehicles on the road in Australia, 50,000 gets them nowhere.

“What they failed to talk about is the actual electricity grid, the infrastructure that powers the whole thing, the level of investment that needs to happen into the grid to be able to cope with every house on the street charging their car. We’re some way off from this happening.”

The industry has already been adapting and investing in its infrastructure and shop-offers for many years now, and while Foukkare agrees the ingredients that we put in our vehicles will eventually change, there will always be the need for retailers.

“People still need to eat; people still need to network. You’re recharging your car or you’re recharging your body; food, drink, and I’ve seen some concepts now where we’ve got shop offers that have seating areas in place. We have meeting rooms in some of our members’ stores. We have offer services, we have click and collect services.

“What’s happening is there’s a heap of investment going into our infrastructure and no one’s really there yet, but I think the best thing that retailers can do is start to think outside the box.”

Foukkare said that what the industry does with the space on the forecourts will be very interesting and play a big role, with micro-fulfillment centres just one example of how retailers could utilise that space.

“There’s this concept going around that effectively, the box that exists today will be split into three. One will be a shop, one will be a mini-warehouse, and you might partner with company A or B, whoever it might be, and you’re going to ship out all their online orders direct from there to your local area, whether it’s your postcode or the one around it. Then the other part is potentially going to be food service type offering; drive-through coffee, your own proprietary brand.”

Change has faced the industry before and will continue to do so over the years, but Foukkare said it has adapted in the past, and will do so again.

“Retailers really just need to start focusing on how we are going to make the location that we have work harder for us and give customers what they want in the future.

“Going back to are we experiencing our Kodak moment? Absolutely not. From our perspective, I think the offer is in a stronger position today than it has ever been. We’ve got a more intelligent member base with dedicated resources that are looking to protect their long-term investment so the customers that we have today, we’ll have tomorrow, the only difference is we’re going to have more customers because the offer will evolve.”

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