ACROSS THE POND
Brief Summary on Ireland Coronavirus
By David Egan
I am writing this brief overview in the last week of April and up to this point, we have been lucky in Ireland so far. However, as your readers will be aware in Canada, the situation can change quickly.
It goes without saying that Canada and Ireland in geography and demographics are very different. Ireland is a small island just a little bigger than New Brunswick with a population lower than Quebec. Yet despite our small size of 32 counties, six counties are under UK administration while 26 counties are administered as the Republic of Ireland.
Due to the peace process, the island of Ireland has socially and economically integrated quietly in recent years. With England voting to leave the European Union, politics has returned to the agenda. This is further complicated as Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU.
Another key background factor to understand is the world financial crash of 2007-08, where Irish society paid heavily for the errors of banks and the governing political party. This created a dramatic change of government eventually resulting in the current strong leadership of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, a qualified doctor.
- The Coronavirus in Ireland – as at 30th April
- Rep of Ireland Cases: 20,000+ Deaths: 1200+
- Ireland North Cases 3700+ Deaths: 350+
Proactive leadership and state administration with clear communication to the public from the start, resulted in the country supporting the partial lockdown from 12th March and full lockdown from 27th March. A road map and five step schedule has been set out to get back to a “new normal” from 18th May to 10th August. This is being carried out as part of the European Union strategy.
Fuel & Convenience Retail
Rep of Ireland Fuel Retail Network: 1790 Northern Ireland: 561
Two key Canadian players have moved into the Irish fuels market in recent years. In 2018, Irving Oil entered the Irish market with the acquisition of a local independent player Top Oil. In February 2016, Couche-Tard acquired Topaz Ireland, which subsequently has been rebranded as Circle K.
In Ireland, where self-service is the norm, it was up to the consumer to wear gloves and face masks. Consumers also had to manage social distance as most fuel service stations have shops or convenience stores. These shops like the supermarkets were playing a key essential service for local communities.
This “essential role” of the service station for local communities has created a unique opportunity for fuel retailers to enhance their customer base. When it comes to pandemic health, people will remember the role of their local service station and staff who were regarded as frontline workers.
Post Pandemic Fuel Service Station
The current pandemic is creating a crisis of business and survival. The Irish Fuel Service Station has always played a key role in both urban and rural Ireland. The Irish market is predominantly an independent dealer market supported by fuel brands. So it boils down to the dealers that have been proactive and adapting to the changes that have taken place in the last decade. Already a number of surveys here and abroad have indicated that consumer visits to the fuel service station will rise by 40 per cent post pandemic Ireland. This will come about by the role the local service station plays during the pandemic.
PW has applied the term “The World of Convenience at the Service Station.” Fuel retail’s future is about developing revenue streams that meet the demands of the local and regional communities. Dare I say it; the coronavirus is an opportunity to enhance the non-fuel retail business in Ireland with your local community of consumers.
Note: Please view International Coronavirus Article on petrolworld.net after 12th May 2020.
David Egan is the international editor for FuelWorld
AACS / Australasian Association of Convenience Stores
Convenience: A Reputation for Adaptation
This year is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) as the peak body, strongest voice and main advocate for the convenience industry in Australia. Our milestone year hasn’t turned out the way we envisaged.
But as an industry, convenience is adaptable. It always has been. And we are proving it again.
We have all been reminded in recent times of the vital role convenience stores play in local communities across Australia. With people shying away from visiting larger centres, our stores are a convenient, preferred destination in many cases.
Convenience stores are local places for people to buy milk, bread, food and beverages, and other essential items. We want to continue to be able to do this in the most convenient way possible, and this means keeping as many stores trading for longer hours as possible.
As the coronavirus pandemic plays out, the need to coordinate the industry’s efforts to ensure convenience stores remain recognized as an essential service is paramount. The term essential service is key here.
The AACS effectively lobbied the Australian Government to ensure convenience stores can remain open to serve consumers, being deemed an essential service, and we’re also in contact with government and competition authorities to ensure our stores receive their fair share of supply of critical items along with the major supermarkets.
Like all businesses and industries, COVID-19 has presented new challenges to convenience retailers and suppliers, as consumers change their behaviours to adapt to the new norm. Specifically, one of the challenges our industry has faced through the pandemic is supply of critical items like grocery items, hygiene products, sanitizers and the like.
As an industry association, we’ve been busy seeking government support in all areas affecting our capacity to remain open to serve communities: human resources, supply chain, fuel, essential services and more.
The long history of strong performance from our industry is a reason for confidence in convenience in the future, despite the implications of the coronavirus reverberating around the country and across the world.
Though it will continue to evolve, the future for the convenience industry is very positive. In fact, our capacity to not only adapt to, but shape, consumer behaviours is a real strength of our channel. The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the importance of convenience to Australians, and the capacity for our industry to navigate and adapt to changing circumstances.
The AACS recognizes and thanks our industry operators and the front-line staff who continue to work serving their customers and communities in these challenging times.
Jeff Rogut is the chief executive officer of the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores.