The recruitment of Tracey Clements is a statement by BP that it finally intends to take its convenience business seriously.
Clements successfully ran Tesco’s convenience division before joining Boots as chief operating officer two years ago. In her new role as BP chief executive of convenience Europe she will be responsible for redefining a convenience offer that has for a long time been the poor relation to its fuel business.
BP was in many ways a trailblazer for the improvement in forecourt food and beverage through its partnership with M&S Simply Food in the early 2000s, but since then other operators such as Applegreen, Motor Fuel Group and the Issa brothers’ Euro Garages have updated and improved the model through tie-ups with the likes of Greggs, Subway and Starbucks and a commitment to constant innovation in on-the-go food and drink concepts.
By comparison BP’s staple convenience offer feels rather stale – its own brand Wild Bean Café is hardly a destination for coffee connoisseurs.
Clements has much work to do to deliver BP’s aim for a market leading food service offer. For a start she needs to create a new sense of purpose among her colleagues, many of whom have historically become frustrated at how little investment the convenience business has received.
While convenience accounts for a small proportion of BPs overall revenue it is a high margin sector and there is growing expectation on the part of customers that petrol stations should provide a quality food offer.
Moreover, the shift towards electric vehicles is set to increase dwell times on forecourts providing a greater opportunity for operators to create mini retail hubs that offer convenience shopping, food and coffee as well as fuel.
As a business that owns more than 1,200 petrol forecourts across the UK alone, the recruitment of Clements gives BP a great chance of capitalising on these opportunities.
She is widely regarded as a brave, forward-thinking leader unafraid to challenge her teams to innovate.
From an operational perspective, few know the world of convenience retail better than Clements who played a pivotal role in the growth of the Tesco Express format as well as running the retailer’s One Stop chain – another franchise model.
She also served as customer strategy and insight director on Tesco’s Clubcard loyalty scheme, experience that will prove invaluable as BP seeks to improve its digital proposition.
Highly intelligent and trusted by colleagues, Clements was a key member of Dave Lewis’s leadership team at Tesco and was earmarked as one of the business’s future leaders.
It would be no surprise to see her return to a senior role at a grocery retailer at some point in the future. Clements, however, will relish the new challenge and will have done her due diligence to assure herself that BP is serious in its forecourt convenience ambitions. Now comes the more difficult task of realizing them.