Topaz – keeping Ireland moving

Clever marketing and a culture for continuous change sees Irish owned Topaz remain one of the most recognisable and trusted fuel brands in Ireland, says the company’s marketing director Paul Candon.

Topaz keeps Ireland moving, we like to say,” says Paul of the business that is 100% Irish owned, and has 330 service stations nationwide. It also has a strong interest in the aviation, marine, gas oil and lubricants market and services the needs of an estimated 250,000 home heating customers.

In its distribution business the company sells home heating oil to Topaz owned businesses north and south of the border and to authorised distributors – some of which use the Topaz brand and others who choose to use their own brand.

A trusted brand

Paul outlines how Topaz, which employs 1,700 people is one of the most recognisable fuel brands on the island and is what people consider a trusted brand. “We have been delivering home heating oil for over 35 years, first as Shell, then Statoil, and in our current guise as Topaz for the last six years.”

The trust that consumers have in Topaz has helped it to remain one of the biggest players in the industry – an industry that has suffered considerably during recessionary times not least from the issues with fuel laundering. “People are concerned about laundering and the product they receive,” Paul says highlighting the prevalence of fuel smuggling, mixing and laundering in border counties.

“It’s estimated that 10% of diesel is laundered,” he adds. “This represents a loss of around 3.5 million euro to the Irish government and also a sizeable revenue loss north of the border.”

Paul believes however that the ROM returns that traders are now required to make, following the introduction of such measures by the Irish Revenue just over 12 months ago, has helped to make businesses more accountable and has gone some way to counter the serious problem of laundering.

“There has been an uplift in business over the last 12 months which I can’t attribute fully to the introduction of ROM, but there could be a connection.”

He also believes that Ireland has turned a corner and is coming out of recession, which is helping to improve overall business. “North of the border where Topaz commands around 8% of the home heating market, business has remained a lot steadier over the last few years compared to the shakier Republic where it has about a 20% market share.”

Driving change

At Topaz, the company serves to drive change continually and review its strategies regularly. “There is a culture of continuous improvement and change with new ideas considered on an ongoing basis,” Paul explains.

Within the last 12 months Topaz has introduced a Play or Park loyalty scheme for customers, where points are gained for making purchases of any description at Topaz. The scheme has been a great success story offering customers an incentive to fulfil all their fuel needs with Topaz. One of the great advantages of the system, which currently has 270,000 customers registered, is that it now has a direct marketing route to customers enabling the company to see and trace spending habits and market accordingly.

Going forward, Topaz plans to increase its share of business in Northern Ireland and has recently brought new people in to prepare for the task. It also hopes to look at online sales and how much this arm of the business can be grown.

Another aim in its medium-term future is to look outside Ireland and at expanding into the UK and Europe, where it sees some room for expansion.

At present in the Republic, the company is happy to consolidate its position and continue to market itself as a quality and trusted brand and one that can compete on price and value – highlighting that the Topaz experience is a total package and value is not always just about price.

Paul uses the analogy of buying batteries:” If you were going to buy batteries, would you buy a brand like Duracell or a shop’s own brand? Price is one thing but value is something else entirely.”