Benzina, the largest network of filling stations in the Czech Republic, is entering the Slovak market. It plans to open the first filling station in Slovakia in Malacky close to the Slovak-Czech border in the spring of this year. Further expansion is planned in cooperation with smaller filling station operators and the company is also open to acquisitions of larger chains.
“The Slovak market is a natural environment for our retail business. With this move, we are expanding our current wholesale activities in the sale of fuels in Slovakia with the retail sale of fuels at filling stations bearing the Benzina logo,” said Tomasz Wiatrak, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors responsible for retail business at the Unipetrol Group of which Benzina is a member. Unipetrol is the only crude oil processor in the Czech Republic and the largest fuel seller. It is part of the multinational oil group, PKN Orlen.
The Czech and Slovak markets are very much alike with respect to customer expectations and behaviour. “Slovak customers have in recent years strongly focused on the quality of fuels and are interested in a wide offer of supplementary services and products, including refreshments. That is also what we can offer as a long-term leader on the Czech market with a strong and stable base,” Tomasz Wiatrak continued, adding: “The investment is of a long-term nature. We want to expand our operations on a step-by-step basis and believe that we will become one of the major players on the Slovak market. Reaching the level of 10 stations by the end of 2019 would be a satisfying achievement, but it is more important than the high pace of development to stick to the assumed business parameters.”
The Slovak market is also similar to its Czech counterpart as regards the market saturation. Hence, Benzina will first address the existing filling station operators. “We are open to acquisitions of larger or smaller chains, and we offer preferential franchising-based cooperation to small operators. We know from our experience on the Czech market that the filling stations which adopted the legendary horse brand concept soon recorded an increase in the volume of fuels sold, as well as rising sales of supplementary products and services,” Tomasz Wiatrak concluded.
Benzina is re-entering Slovakia after more than 30 years. The brand alone was already born in the then Czechoslovakia in 1953 already when the Ministry of Chemical Industry used this brand to replace the original name, Benzinol, used for filling stations since 1949 when nationalisation took place, creating a single state-controlled network. The Benzinol brand was restored in Slovakia in 1985. During the privatisation process after 1989, Benzina was transferred to private owners and temporarily lost the right to use the brand on the Slovak market. Benzina is now returning to Slovakia as an entity that is at the forefront on the Czech market where it runs 406 filling stations and controls one fourth of the market by volume of fuels sold.