Topaz Cashel takes top international prize

The interior of the award winning store features a double height ceiling and upstairs seating area
The interior of the award winning store features a double height ceiling and upstairs seating area

A state of the art service station in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, which was only opened by Topaz four months ago, has won a leading international retailer award. Fionnuala Carolan spoke to Eddie O’Brien, CEO, Topaz, about the inspiration for the store



18 October 2011

Share this post:



The Cashel site, at Junction 8 on the M8, was awarded the Insight NACS 2011 International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award at a gala ceremony in London in September.

NACS is the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailers and represents retailers and suppliers worldwide.
Topaz beat off competition from a short list which included Morrisons M-local from the UK, LS travel retail from France and Shell/7-Eleven from Norway.

Eddie O’Brien, chief executive of Topaz, says the award was a huge boost for the company and Cashel in particular.
“This is an acknowledgement by our industry peers from across Europe that the range of services on offer at Cashel, transforms the customer experience. This site is our template for future sites close to the motorway network and it is extremely encouraging that our ‘first-born’ has won such a prestigious award”, O’Brien says.

Top class services

Services on offer at the site include a hot food buffet and café, children’s play area, wi-fi internet access and four-star hotel standard toilets. The site also has a McDonald’s restaurant, which is a first motorway location for the company.

One of the judges Joe Bona, president retail division at CBX, a New York based strategic branding company, praised the use of new technologies at the site:

“Through the integration and use of technology across multiple platforms, from pay at the pump to social media and smart phone apps, Topaz appears to be an innovation leader for the convenience channel”.


NACS is 50 years in operation in the US and is now the biggest convenience store organisation in the world. NACS partnered up with Insight in the UK 12 years ago. This international competition for store design and development started four years ago and Applegreen Stilllorgan, Co Dublin, was last year’s winner so the Irish are definitely staying ahead of the game in terms of innovation in this sector.

According to O’Brien: “Ireland and the UK are probably the most developed markets in the world, even ahead of the US now. What we do, and Applegreen, BWG and Musgrave, is seen on a global level so you get a lot of visitors from South America and Australia to see what’s going on.”

O’ Brien says a lot of members are independents and everyone is interested in getting better. “Few people are interested in hiding information for competitive advantage because there is nobody big enough to dominate the industry.”

Tough competition

The competition accepts entries from all over the world and whittles these down to the last four by an international judging panel. The final four are highlighted on the web and retailers all over the world can vote. “A judging panel gets you to the final but it’s your peer group that makes you number one,” says O’ Brien.  “We knew broadly speaking that it was between ourselves and Morrisons M Local, a new concept store in the UK, and that it was neck and neck. In the last few days voting on our store accelerated.”

“There are lots of awards but to get one from an international judging panel that you respect and have it awarded to you by your peers is very rewarding. It’s validated then by everyone at the NACS/Insight conference wanting to go to Cashel to see the store. We have numerous groups coming to see the place and implementing our ideas in their own stores.”

Point of difference

Having a McDonalds on a moterway location is something that the fast food giant hasn’t done at all in Ireland or very often anywhere else. “I think the rationale for them(McDonald’s) was that they looked at Ireland and how many stores and they have a per capita penetration ratio that they use all over the world and they know they are under-populated here but they have struggled to get locations. They are not overly keen on moterway locations in isolation because their business is very much around family and local community. But what they liked about Cashel was that you had the proximity of a big market town and the access to the road infrastructure.”

The moterway is linked by a bridge so customers have access from both sides of the moterway. Other motorway sites the company has built are one way access so it was required to build a seperate premises on each side of the road. “We believe that is an expensive way to do that type of service,” comments O’Brien.

"All the pumps in Cashel are automated. So if you are a mother with three kids in the car and you’ve just been to McDonald’s you can drive up to a pump, get out, leave your kids in the car, pay for your fuel and drive away without ever losing sight of your children. The whole site is optimized in terms of customer flow.”

“The Cashel site is the first opportunity for Topaz to demonstrate our vision. Up to now we’ve been retrofitting existing sites that were with the Shell or Statoil network. We haven’t had a big greenfield site like Cashel before,” says O’Brien.

An aspirational build

Aside from being very progressive in terms of technological innovation, the site is also very architecturally pleasing to the eye. “It has a very strong presence in the landscape which is something we wanted to do to show the values of the brand. The building is two stories high and has glass on three sides with a cantilever roof. It also has a Topaz logo on the side wall that’s about 15 foot high.” O’Brien explains that this project has been in progress for about four years. “It’s aspirational in how it’s built. It’s creating a completely different atmosphere for customers. You can sit upstairs and look out over the landscape.”

Next store

This store only opened in July and it’s already said to be ahead of expectations and performing very strongly. This is the first of up to 15 motorway sites which the company plans to build close to the motorway network. So will the company be keen to replicate this design elsewhere in the country? O’Brien says it’s a matter of finding the right location.

“Now that all the motorways and big cities in Ireland have been connected, we see a deficit of services on these roads. We would be interested in anywhere the moterway passes or splits and going into a major town with access from both sides of the motorway. There is a lot of competition for these sites so we can’t be very specific about where we are looking.”

Would they partner with McDonald’s again? “I think they’d be very interested in speaking to us. If you’re with the number one you’d want a good reason to move away from them.”

Topaz has over 300 sites making it the largest convenience retailer in the country and 190 of them are company owned. The company has an annual turnover of €2.35 billion and employs 1,300 people.



Share this post:

Back to Top ↑

Shelflife Magazine