Sunday 18 November 2018

Maxol mulls move to main street, eyes acquisitions in diversification drive

Maxol CEO Brian Donaldson. Photo: Arthur Carron
Maxol CEO Brian Donaldson. Photo: Arthur Carron
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Maxol is mulling a move on to the Main Street as it seeks to insulate itself against the effect of electric cars on the forecourt business.

The company is extending the Maxol brand from fuel to food as it seeks to grow in the higher-margin food sector.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Maxol CEO Brian Donaldson said the company had set aside a "fighting fund" for potential acquisitions, designed to help the company diversify.

Areas the company is looking at include entering new energy markets, taking new food franchises into Ireland, and establishing standalone sites that do not provide fuel (so-called "dry sites").

"What we're looking at is where the business will be in 2030. You need to start putting your strategy in place now," Mr Donaldson said.

"What we're looking at is: do we go into new energy markets, do we take ourselves onto the high street, do we start looking at standalone dry sites, do we look at taking a food franchise and taking that to the high street, do we look at supply chain and actually strengthening our supply chain by taking a shareholding?"

The company is looking to refurbish 70 stores between now and this time next year as it seeks to lift the quality of food it provides, alongside improving the in-store experience.

"We'll be extending our name and label to milk, bread, cheeses, fresh produce, snacks.

"What we're looking at in terms of our in-store offering is almost trying to set that Avoca-type standard in terms of the ingredients and the quality of ingredients that go into our sandwiches, our prepared meals," Mr Donaldson said.

The company is competing with large rivals including stock market-listed Applegreen, Canadian business Couche-Tard, which bought Topaz and has just rebranded it as Circle K, and Valero, which owns the Texaco chain of stations.

Maxol itself is privately owned by the McMullan family. Mr Donaldson says he believed the ownership structure provided the company with an advantage, in that it enabled it to be agile and make decisions quickly.

He said the company was well-financed and had adequate firepower to execute its strategy.

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