This year will see many changes in the provision of point-of-sale systems in the UK. Torex/Micros/Oracle seems to have passed the mantle for sales to other parties and several have taken partnerships with Oracle for the supply of systems at various different levels. But a word of caution when seeking new systems this year always ensure that the system you are being sold actually exists and is not just a plan in someone's mind.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

01 February, 2016

Our esteemed editor Merril Boulton loves a Sherbet Lemon and Bassett's are her favourite, so she was delighted with the news that brand owner Mondelez is promoting 'adult candy' via a major relaunch. She's hoping her favourites will then be more widely available. Whenever I see them in a shop, I do buy her some (what a creep, I hear you say) and typically they are found in forecourt stores, so that's good for business.

Happy New Year to you all. Made me smile to see the supermarkets getting a slating over their pricing strategies for a change, instead of always the traditional fuel retailing fraternity.

In the summer of 2015, ACS launched one of its biggest ever campaigns in opposition to changes to Sunday Trading regulations announced by the Chancellor in his July Budget. We lobbied hard to ensure that the issue was front-of-mind for MPs, and as a result of the campaigning work, a sizeable group of Conservative MPs and the Scottish National Party publicly stated that they would vote against a change in the rules.

The police and other law enforcement bodies face continuing pressure to prioritise resources in the face of austerity measures. BOSS has been working hard to maintain and build on existing relationships to ensure maximum benefit for members, recognising that it's important to do more than just report a crime. This has led to the recovery of more than 2m for members, together with positive outcomes and prosecution of numerous persistent offenders.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

12 January, 2016

Happy New Year to you all. Can you believe that we've already had 15 years of the 21st century? Every time I think of the 21st century, I'm transported back to my school days when we all imagined that by now, some of us would be living on the moon. Of course, it's not happened yet, but technology does evolve in leaps and bounds, not least payment technology.

This has been a turbulent and exciting year for petrol retailers with the independent sector powering ahead to represent nearly 70% of all UK forecourts. The decision by the remaining oil majors to continue divesting their retail assets has enabled a few of the larger independent groups to grow quickly and impressively, but some smaller multi-site operators have also been on the acquisition trail. This is a refreshing change from the years of attrition caused by the rise and rise of the big four supermarkets which has seen over 4,000 small, often family run, filling stations wiped out since 2001.

Petroleum products are an essential energy resource and they will continue to be for years to come. Our sector produces these vital products and confidence in the safety of our operations is paramount. Our industry does involve potential risks that are greater than those in many other sectors and for this month's column I want to focus on safety.

The latest Apple event came and went launching the new Iphone 6s, new Apple TV new ios 9 and OSx El Capitan and, of course, the Ipad Pro. Having done some work with CBE on the mobile solution, I was keen to see what the Ipad Pro brought to the table.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

04 November, 2015

he news that Christmas will be cheaper for consumers this year means only one thing to retailers fierce competition. A survey for, done by YouGov, found that average household spending on food, presents and decorations would be 796.05 this year. It sounds a lot but it's actually 3% down on last year's spend of 820.60, and the lowest spend since 2012.

At the start of September, we launched our fourth annual Local Shop Report and it was great to see so many of you in Manchester to be among the first to get the information.

At a recent meeting with the Attorney General, the country's senior law officer, BOSS was praised for the work it does in tackling forecourt crime. It was also welcoming to hear from Home Office Minister for Policing, Mike Penning MP, that he's grateful for the positive way that BOSS is working with the Home Office.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

28 September, 2015

Having spent over two weeks recently with a really annoying cough and cold, I've had first-hand contact with the cold and flu remedies category. During my illness I consumed, in no particular order: vitamin C, vitamin D3, Day Nurse, Night Nurse, paracetamol, Sudafed, Covonia lozenges, Jakeman's throat sweets and liquorice tea. Annoying as my symptons were, I didn't bother going to the doctors because there's nothing they can do for the common cold.

Brian Madderson - chairman PRA

16 September, 2015

I wrote after the election to Mike Penning MP, newly appointed minister for policing, crime, criminal justice and victims at the Home Office about possible changes to police policy on forecourt crime.

David Charman - chairman CWA

16 September, 2015

As the summer months continue with the better weather, the excellent car wash sales of 2015 have continued. I was reminded recently by a personal event that there has been a dramatic increase in some of the costs incurred by our business, such as water and refuse.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

16 September, 2015

How pro-active are you at providing what your shoppers want? I ask because I spoke to a convenience store retailer recently who told me he had just started stocking low-salt and low-sugar lines. But the interesting bit was that he was not responding to demand, he was trying to create it.

Diesel vehicles have become increasingly popular and now account for over half of new car registrations in the UK.

Apple Pay and PayPal are the latest payment methods to reach our retail stores and sites. Available on iPhone 6, Apple Pay enables your mobile phone to be used as a mobile wallet. You simply pass your phone near to the terminal, anything with the ApplePay logo or the currently available contactless symbol. The limit for Apple Pay is currently the same as contactless ie 20. I understand that this is moving to 40 per transaction in October.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

06 August, 2015

I've always been a bit fascinated by the Graze craze. You know, those boxes of delicious but healthy snacks that get sent direct to consumers' homes or desks.

Business rates are one of the biggest cost burdens on retailers, and while the government's review of the system is a great opportunity, there will be winners and losers. It's our job to explain why local shops should be net beneficiaries of the review.

Last month there was uproar when Devon and Cornwall Police revealed that taking fuel and driving off without payment would not be investigated and their lack of resources meant they would not deal with it.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

24 July, 2015

I know it's really the wrong time of the year to talk about chocolate, but I just had to tell you about my latest find.

Lots of positive news for the fuel retailing sector this month starting with our latest annual Fuel Market Review, compiled in conjunction with Experian Catalist (page 28). It shows that the number of dealer sites has grown for the second year in a row, there are more vehicles on the UK roads, retail fuel volumes have also grown plus supermarket volumes are down, albeit by just 0.5%.

Farewell coalition and hello majority. Voters chose a Conservative Government producing a raft of new appointments and decisions critical for our industry sector.

Well it's that time again; time to complete the HMRC rates form showing, in a nutshell, how my business has performed over the past three years. I suspect that for many of us it will reveal just how much our sector has changed.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

11 June, 2015

The phrase 'I don't believe it' is the title of this month's column as I am in full-on Victor Meldrew mode. Firstly, I couldn't believe the story of the chap who went into Greggs (the bakers) to buy a loaf of bread, only to be told they don't sell bread any more. Surely that's just the same as going onto a petrol forecourt and being told they don't sell petrol?

Yet another month of intense activity in the sector, and I don't just mean all the trade exhibitions that were held last month including our own very successful Forecourt Show at the NEC. The head offices of MFG and Euro Garages must have been and will continue to be operating in overdrive as they go through the purchase of yet more swathes of sites, this time from Shell (see News Extra page 10).

s we went to press, a safety scheme for road fuel tankers was launched. UKPIA inaugurated a thoroughly revised Safe Loading Pass Scheme (SLPS) on April 30. The scheme aims to ensure that road fuel tankers are safe and meet a number of additional checks and standards. The SLPS was first established in the UK in 1989 and was informally managed by a small number of participating companies.

Can you remember where you were and what you were doing on Friday April 10, 2015? I can. I had made an appointment to view and potentially order my new Apple watch. Having got to the relevant point in the appointment system, the nice young lady asked me which watch I was there to see? I knew it was the larger 42mm watch with the Milanese Loop.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

13 May, 2015

People say that there's no such thing as a free lunch but with Walker's crisps that's not true. That's because consumers buying packets of the crisps have a one in six chance of winning a free lunch. Walkers owner PepsiCo says this will enable retailers to 'add some crunch' to their lunchtime sales.

The Chancellor has delivered his final Budget of the parliament ahead of the election in May. One of the headlines grabbing a lot of attention was the announcement of 1p off a pint, reductions in other alcohol duties and a freeze in wine duty. This is good news for an important category in convenience stores. A reduction in duty rates on alcohol alongside a renewed commitment from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to clamp down on duty fraud and the upcoming introduction of an alcohol wholesaler registration scheme are all positive steps toward tackling the damaging illicit trade.

On May 7 the country goes to the polls to elect a new government. One of the first questions I will be asking the new Home Secretary is "What is the justice system going to do to respond better to drive-offs and 'no means of payment' (NMoP) incidents?"

Tracy West -:Shop Talk

07 April, 2015

By now, you should all be covered up. And by that I mean your cigarettes and baccy, all cosy and snug behind doors or shutters because on April 6, that's the law!

Interesting times, as Esso concludes the sell-off of its final tranche of sites and pilots a new fuel livery; and MFG unveils a new strategy - on the one hand signing off on the biggest fuel supply deal of recent years; and also commits to the Murco brand in a dealer supply operation. Full marks to Euro Garages for taking the lion's share of the Esso sites. It means that since 2012, when the first of the Esso company owned site sales took place, Euro Garages has acquired 195 out of a possible 369 sites - more than half. According to the latest Top 50 Indies listing, and by my calculations (granted the figures are always fluctuating) it now has a total of 286 sites and has therefore jumped ahead of Rontec to come nearly neck and neck with MFG, currently at number two with 288 sites. MRH however, has reinforced its dominance of the independent dealer group sector, adding another 78 sites bringing its network to 463. It acquired a total of 109 sites from Esso over the three groups of sales; Rontec gained 55 overall. These are audacious acquisitions as these independent dealer groups continue to grow in leaps and bounds. MRH has lead the way in terms of numbers for some time; Euro Garages continues to lead the way in terms of innovation both in site development and operation. MFG has joined the party with its huge number of company owned sites on which it continues to raise standards; and now it is officially caretaker of the Murco brand. The MFG management

It's been another busy month as we completed the research on the latest Top 50 Indies listing, which shows a burgeoning group which has grown at the rate of more than 300 sites in the past year (see report on page 20). And of course more growth will come with the conclusion of the sale of Esso's final tranche of sites and Shell's disposal of 250 sites, expected to be completed later this year.

The extraordinarily steep decline in Brent Crude from $115 per barrel last June to $45 per barrel by mid-January was predicted by very few (if any) analysts, traders or oil companies, tempting the same scribes to pen their best guesses for 2015. The recent Bloomberg headline which read "analysts are now united in their view of crude oil prices going forward" it will be somewhere in the range $30 to $200 per barrel, neatly summarised these guesses.

Spring 2015 may turn out to be a huge turning point in the car wash industry. The weather has been kind, resulting in the best start to trade for maybe five years. Could it be also that the new found wealth afforded to the motorist, with the falling fuel prices, has rekindled the love affair with the motor car?

Shop Talk - Tracy West

06 March, 2015

I always used to be impressed by US forecourts they always seemed so cutting edge, so ahead of the curve but on a recent trip to Florida the ones I visited were a bit disappointing. One was downright awful. Mr West and I only stopped because we needed a map we'd been too mean to pay the extra for the sat nav in the car hire package. That decision cost us dearly as a few days before I'd looked at a map on my iPhone and it cost me 40 quid! Anyway we used the stop to buy the map and to also fill up with fuel. As you know, you pay before you fill up over there and usually I don't mind this at all. But this time, I went into the shop and said: "Fill up on number six, please." I added that I had no idea how much this would cost and so the 'charming' lady behind the counter took my card and barked at me to stand close by. I was so scared, I froze. I gazed around the shop and it looked like the 'before' shot on a makeover show. Shelves were randomly stacked with goods, typically beef jerky and energy shots. And no, they had no maps!

It's the first month of the New Year and time to consider what can we expect to see happen in the world of technology over the next 12 months?

Shop Talk - Tracy West

02 February, 2015

Valentine's Day (February 14) falls on a Saturday this year, which is always good news for restaurants but I think it's good news for you too. That's because even though surveys say people are spending more on eating out in restaurants, many consumers just haven't got their confidence back yet to go splashing the cash. So instead they'll opt for a cosy night in. M&S has done wonders for the 'easy meal at home' market with its special deals but with all the cookery shows on TV you can bet there are some people men and women who will be showing off their culinary skills on February 14. Why not help them along? Not just with special deals but maybe some recipe ideas? Or, if you have an off licence, suggestions for which wine goes best with which type of food. Wine and cider suppliers say food pairing is a big trend. Thatchers Cider has been working with Tim Maddams famous for his work at River Cottage and award-winning Indian cookery teacher Bini Ludlow to create a series of menus and food pairing ideas. Its aim is to offer retailers new ways to engage with consumers.

A happy and prosperous New Year to you all, and as we kick off 2015, it's not looking at all bad for the independent dealer sector is it?

Announcing business rates reform was the easy bit. Now the Chancellor has to work out what changes to this 26bn tax revenue stream will be fairer, pro-growth, fiscally responsible and popular.

About 900,000 times each year motorists drive away from service stations either without paying or having drawn fuel then claiming that they have no means to pay. These problems cost each forecourt retailer an average of 3,000 every year.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

19 January, 2015

Happy new year to you all let's hope it's a good one for you and your business. And, if you look at new research from Barclaycard, it seems things are already looking up as 2014 was the year when we all started spending again.

Crime is certainly alive and well in the forecourt retailing sector and a scroll through the latest news on our website in the past few months is confirmation of that.

Brian Madderson - Chairman PRA

03 December, 2014

This year could mark a watershed for the beleaguered independent sector with several structural changes swiftly impacting prospects. The oil companies continue their orderly retreat from direct retailing (Murco, Esso, Shell) and we have been monitoring these disposals carefully. We predict that the independent sector could increase to more than 6,000 sites by the end of 2015, which would represent some 70% of all UK filling stations. It's a point that is being made to all interested government departments.

David Charman - Chairman CWA

03 December, 2014

The end of 2014 is fast approaching and a major subject on people's minds is UKIP and immigration. 'Take us out of Europe', they cry and send back the illegal immigrants to their country of origin.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

03 December, 2014

Christmas is fast approaching and as I write this, I'm thinking about all the things I've still got to do. These include wrapping presents then wrapping them again in brown paper and sending them off to far flung places before those pesky 'last posting dates'. December is, of course, the big one for parcels which got me thinking about all these new click and collect operations that have popped up.

It's like someone has dug a big hole, and fuel prices are falling into it at great speed. It's actually quite weird seeing a price pole displaying figures of say, 122.9ppl for unleaded and 126.9ppl for diesel. They look more like museum pieces so long has it been since prices have been anywhere near that low.

In January, the UK's first Petroleum Driver Passport (PDP) was launched. It was developed by the Downstream Oil Industry Distribution Forum (DODF) to deliver a consistently high level of training to all petroleum tanker drivers, verified by an accredited third party. It represents a benchmark by which all petroleum driver training is measured and gives confidence to terminal operators, hauliers etc that all drivers have been trained to the same high and externally verified standards.

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About the Forecourt Trader Group
Forecourt Trader continues to maintain its market-leading position as the major source of information for the petrol-retailing sector.

Targeted at independent retailers, all those connected to the industry seek out Forecourt Trader (magazine and website) for its strong mix of news, industry and retailer profiles, as well as scheduled features that cover all categories of a service station operation at length, on both the forecourt and shop side of the business. ...more »