Gerald Ronson, the pioneer of self-service petrol stations in the UK and Chairman of Rontec today celebrated 50 years in roadside retailing. He marked the golden milestone at a lunch attended by long serving colleagues, family, industry giants, suppliers and business partners.
Mr Ronson launched his first petrol station in St. Albans on 24th March 1966 and has since built over 1,000 service stations. The acquisition of Total UK’s Retail Network in 2012 signalled his return to the sector in scale and Rontec has since become a £1 billion plus turnover business – one of the largest independent roadside retailers in the UK.
Gerald Ronson CBE, Chairman of Rontec, commented:
“50 years ago, Beatlemania was in full swing across the UK but, at the age of 26, I was busy launching my business which would revolutionise petrol stations. Our combination of service, quality and low prices meant that when we opened our first station in St. Albans in 1966, we had queues of cars for half a mile waiting to fill up at four shillings and 10 pence (old money) a gallon.
“It is a fantastic business – seven days a week, 365 days a year, the cash is pumping 24 hours a day. We continue to innovate, adapt and improve; we continue to focus on the detail; and we continue to care. As a privately owned business (with one third bequeathed to The Gerald Ronson Family Foundation) we are also in a position to invest in our people and our sites, the majority of which are freehold owned.
“Petrol retailing is in my DNA, and whilst it is my hobby, it is a business that I am deadly serious about. It combines my love of property and business expertise – the public can’t do without petrol for the foreseeable future, and it is a highly dynamic sector. Retail is detail and it’s the small things that keep people coming back time and time again.
“Balancing fuel, brand and retail is a rare skill, one which our management team has been honing over the last half century. It is what sets us apart from the rest – our unique competitive advantage – and it only comes with time and experience.
“The business we have built reflects our hard work. But the petrol industry has also changed a lot over the last half century. When I started out, there were around 38,000 filling stations in the UK; now there are probably fewer than 9,000, with just four remaining in Central London.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved but watch this space because our journey is not over yet.”