Nalliah Thayaparan (Thaya) took us Behind the Business of stand-out service station JET Bexhill, shares his tips for managing 23 sites across the nationwide NTS Group network and describes how focusing on the small details can often yield the biggest returns.
Take us back to the start of our journey and tell us how you came to be the founder and CEO of the NTS Group?
We’ve recently hit 23 sites and counting – and I couldn’t be prouder of all that we’ve achieved. In June alone, we’ve signed two new sites and we have two more pending. Long may it continue!
It all began in 2013, when I bought my first sites. Prior to this I’d managed a few service stations, but 2013 is where my journey really began. Since the beginning, I’ve always kept an ear to the ground for new opportunities to buy and improve sites. Today, our service stations are all over the country, from Cornwall to Birmingham and many places in between.
Tell us about JET Bexhill and how it serves the local community.
I took on JET Bexhill in March 2022. It used to be a cramped space, so we extended the shop into the forecourt, which was a challenge without much land to play with. The extension has allowed us to increase fridge space, our Food-To-Go range and the kiosk area, all contributing to a much better experience for our customers. We also added in a Costa Coffee station which has gone down very well. I’d say the renovation work has more than paid off. Shop sales have doubled and our turnover is up by 30%. I often find, it’s the small details that can make the biggest difference to customers.
How did customers react to the new-look JET Bexhill and what are the most popular products?
Following the refurb, footfall went up noticeably, which was great. We’ve had lots of comments on the branding, people like it a lot. Customers have said it’s very clean, tidy and smart. Regulars also visit the site more often than they used to and for a greater range of products beyond just topping up fuel. I would say vapes and Costa Coffee are two of our most popular in-store products at JET Bexhill. During the summer months, we see a surge in demand for ice-cream, cold drinks and chilled items… hence our decision to increase fridge space! In fact, over the summer we tend to double sales. It’s a profitable period for us.
What’s your relationship like with JET?
Great! My account manager Naina Patel is very good and always keen to help. She’s happy to jump on a call if you ever need it, which is good because often it’s quicker to chat in the moment than to wait for a response. It's important to have a good relationship with your partners.
What are your top tips you can offer to other JET dealer business leaders?
Always ask yourself: ‘can this site do better?’ And then ask: ‘how?’ This needs to be a daily mantra because you can’t afford to lose out to the competition… who might be providing something you’re not and at a better price. You need to have good product knowledge and keep tabs on availability in your stores. I have managers for all my service stations who regularly report back on sales, customer feedback, customer service and many other aspects. I can then help keep them up to par and be competitive with local businesses.
Take us through a day in your life?
Most days I’ll get up and go to the gym to set myself up for the day. Sometimes it’s badminton or cricket! My working day is mainly focused on how to optimise our service stations and also scouting for new locations to take on. I work with an agency who help make suggestions. I also spend a lot of time looking at pricing models. We try to match our local competitors, region by region. Any site-specific intel is fed back to the managers to implement. But no two days are the same, which is what I love about this job.
Putting yourself in the driver’s seat… when visiting other service stations, what do you look for?
Good question. While refuelling, I take a good look at the pump to see how it’s designed before taking a walk around the rest of the forecourt and shop. Inside the shop, I explore the merchandise and then I look at the coffee offers. Mostly, I just have a look around and then go to the counter and see how they treat me as a customer. Are they friendly? Helpful? Advertising offers or services? Is there a car wash? I then feed that info onto our managers to help optimise our sites and the services we offer.
Describe your job in 3 words.
Diligent, resilient and energetic.