Liquid market

Forecourts have a choice of water supplier. In a market flooded by competitors, it’s worth asking if you are getting the best deal.

SINCE April 2008 Scottish businesses have been able to choose which firm they purchase their water from, in a similar fashion to other utilities like gas and electricity.

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In the years since, a number of suppliers have entered the market and industry regulator the Water Industry Commission for Scotland claims the introduction of competition to business water rates has brought wider choice and more tailored services while leading to lower prices.

For forecourts, particularly those with car washes and coffee machines, switching suppliers could lead to big savings – something many retailers have woken up to.

However, James Cardwell-Moore, commercial director of Business Stream, voices a note of caution before grabbing for the cheapest deal.

“Changing your water supplier can be beneficial provided you have first exhausted the options with your current supplier,” he said. “In addition to price discounts and savings, the market is increasingly about the extra services on offer and providers such as Business Stream offer a wide range of services to help meet customers’ needs.

“We would therefore encourage customers to speak to their current supplier first. If a customer remains unsatisfied then it is worth testing the market.”

So what should retailers look for? Stewart Yardley, operations director of Verastar, reckons it’s important that business owners consider the capabilities of the supplier to appropriately support their business.

“Many suppliers will offer extremely low prices but are unable to provide the level of service required for many businesses,” he said.

“Many businesses have special requirements so it is important to gain a full understanding of how the supplier can meet the needs of your business. For example, many businesses have multiple sites which need to be accurately grouped when it comes to billing. In these instances it is important that the supplier is flexible in terms of its billing formats and will provide regular meter reads to ensure accurate billing which is easily accessible via an online customer portal.”

Simon Crane, senior business account manager at Anglian Water Business, said his company was actively targeting forecourt retailers in Scotland.

“Our mission is to understand how each organisation uses water and find ways to help every customer reduce their consumption and save money – quickly and sustainably,” he said. “For example, a recent water efficiency audit for Esso led to an almost instant drop in consumption, saving £35,000 a year in water charges.

“Not all water suppliers are the same. We’re proud of our track record – in the last seven years we’ve signed up hundreds of customers with thousands of sites, including petrol retailers such as BP and MRH, and every single customer that has switched to us has stayed with us.”