THE NEW TOPAZ
CEO John Williamson discusses the changing nature of the Irish retailer’s brand.
BY FIONA BRIGGS
Topaz’s new service station at Dublin Airport is the blueprint for a “new Topaz,” according to the company’s CEO John Williamson. “It’s state of the art in our view,” he said of the Irish retailer’s
latest addition to its portfolio.
Opened in December 2013 in time to capture peak
Christmas trade, the 160-square-meter site on the
airport campus is perfectly placed to appeal to a broad
section of customers.
Around 20 million people travel through Dublin
Airport every year — equivalent to 55,000 a day. “A
site like Dublin gives the opportunity to showcase to a
cross section of customers,” says Williamson. “It will
bring people in that might not have thought about Topaz before — it’s not tailored to any specific segment.”
New ideas include live departure/arrival information and a pay-at-the-pump facility, both useful
features for travelers. The location also includes
a cafe, hot food deli, barista coffee, Wi-Fi Internet
access, EV chargers and car wash.
“There’s a spanking new ‘cook at counter’ food of-
fer, which is innovative when it comes to forecourt
retailing in Ireland,” says Williamson. In-store chefs
enhance the offer, which he says also “looks very
Outside, there’s a modern glass frontage and a
wooden frame with a picture of a coffee cup to signal
the site is open for sit-down service. The canopy is
a striking new shape and the price pole is one of the
tallest on the market.
Williamson reports that Topaz plans to roll out elements of the new offer over the next few years in other
stores. “It’s the start of the new Topaz,” he maintains.
That includes a move toward free Wi-Fi across all
its properties. “People think it’s everywhere but it’s
not. Offering free Wi-Fi
may enable a business
meeting and a customer
might buy a second cup
of coffee,” Williamson
says. And that’s either
a bean to cup or barista
offer. Topaz sells 5 million cups of its branded coffee a
year — that’s over 100,000 cups a week — and sales are
growing by 10% year-on-year.
Such developments are the future of forecourt retailing, Williamson believes. “The model is changing.
Forecourt operators in U. S., for example, now think of
petrol being an ancillary service, like food. The focus
now is on the box, not the forecourt.
“It’s flipping the model on its head,” he continues.
“The world is becoming greener. Fuel has an end of
time date. We need to create value for shareholders so
we have to be innovative and different. We’ve applied
that to Dublin Airport and you can see why we have
changed the dial, with fresh and hot food bringing
people onto the site.”
CEO John Williamson (left) and Dublin Airport Authority CEO
Kevin Toland (right) share in the excitement for “a new Topaz.”