Fuel station operator Topaz is today rebranding as Circle K, with €20m set to be spent changing over its 420 forecourts across the country. Canada's Couche Tard acquired Topaz from businessman Denis O'Brien in 2015, in a deal worth over €400m. The rebrand will bring its Irish operation in line with the global business, with the Re-Store sub-brand also being phased out.
"It's basically a full rebranding of all our sites... over the next 18 months," Circle K Ireland's managing director Niall Anderton said. "We have been integrating with Couche Tard and we've introduced a number of new brands - the fuel brand being 'Miles' on the forecourt and also the 'Simply Great Coffee' inside the store.
This is part of a global rollout where all businesses under the Couche Tard brand are changing to Circle K."
The change will not have an impact on the amount customers pay for fuel, however, as Mr Anderton said the core business model will remain the same. That means that fuel for the stations will be bought locally, and not in bulk by the parent company.
The company is also going into expansion mode under its new owners, with €35m being invested into the development of four new sites. These will include two new sites in Co Kildare as well as sites in Gorey, Co Wexford and Athlone, Co Westmeath. That is in addition to the newly completed services off the M1 at the Dublin-Meath border, and at Junction 18 of the M8 in Fermoy, Co Cork.
The fuel providing business has been an increasingly competitive one in Ireland in recent years, especially since the arrival of motorway services, but Mr Anderton believes that its scale remains viable. "Forecourt retailing and retailing in general has always been very competitive," he said. "I'd expect that to continue, certainly everyone is investing in the market which is a positive thing for our consumers."
Mr Anderton said the company's investments to date go beyond the rebrand and new sites - with money also being spent on new pumps, new coffee machines and new premium products. "We have to stay investing in the market so our consumers get the best offers," he said.
The winds are turning somewhat against the old-fashioned fuel forecourt, however, given the push by Government towards public transport and increased use of bikes. Couple with that the fact that Europe is pushing for great and greater efficiency in vehicles, it ultimately means that fewer people will need to spend less time stopping off at a Circle K in the future. "That's one of our challenges and we've adapted very well to it," Mr Anderton said. "We can no longer solely rely on fuel, that's why we have developed our fresh food range and our in-store offerings. There's lots of innovation continually going on to attract people to our sites," he added.
MORNING BRIEFS - German carmaker Volkswagen has named Herbert Diess as its new CEO, replacing Matthias Mueller who took the helm after the firm was found to have cheated emissions tests. The company has also announced a restructuring of its business - which will see its 12 brands brought under six divisions.
*** US President Donald Trump has agreed to reconsider joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, the trade deal he previously labelled a disaster. However politicians from US farming states have argued that the deal may help the country in its ongoing row with China, as TPP was designed to counter its strength in the pacific region. In a tweet Donald Trump said he would only join TPP if the deal offered was improved substantially.
*** A hard Brexit remains the most likely outcome of Britain's departure from the European Union, according to accountancy firm PwC. In its Spring update the firm said that there remained a considerable amount of uncertainty about the withdrawal agreement and future relationship which needed to be addressed by October.
As a result it is advising firms to prepare for a hard Brexit.
*** The Central Bank has also issued a fresh warning about Brexit with financial services firms told they must brace for major disruptions. In a speech last night, the Central Bank's deputy governor Ed Sibley said some in the insurance industry in particular appeared complacent about the risks and said they must prepare for a worst case scenario.