Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community
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Peter Harding - Retail technology consultant

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

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.

James Lowman: ACS Chief executive

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.

Kevin Eastwood - BOSS executive director

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

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!

Merril Boulton: Big growth for the big boys

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

Merril Boulton: Burgeoning Top 50

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.

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

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.

David Charman - chairman CWA

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

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!

Peter Harding - Retail technology consultant

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

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.

Merril Boulton: Good year - good start

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?

James Lowman: ACS chief executive

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.

Kevin Eastwood - BOSS executive director

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

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.

Merril Boulton: Criminally intense

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

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

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

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.

Merril Boulton: Hang on to your hats

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.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

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.

Peter Harding - Retail technology consultant

Everywhere we look these days things seem to be cloud based. What does this really mean? Many companies give you free space on the cloud to store files such as photos. It seems the idea is that you get a small amount of storage for free and are then enticed to purchase more space as you need it.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

Christmas and the shopping frenzy that surrounds it is fast approaching. I know it's still only November, but as we have a festive edition of Product News I thought I'd add my festive tuppence ha'penny's worth.

Merril Boulton: Awards showcase

Excitement all round for the forecourt sector last month, what with the rather spectacular Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards (see full report, starting on page 49 and also the awards website www.forecourttraderawards.co.uk); and then the Shell announcement confirming the sale of around 250 sites.

James Lowman: ACS Chief executive

We have recently published the third edition of our annual look at the convenience sector, the Local Shop Report, which contains some great new insights into local shops, the people who run them and the communities they serve. The main story from the report is one of good news the sector is now worth £37.4bn, and is responsible for creating over 386,000 jobs in local communities across the UK. This is a significant increase on last year and means that c-stores have again outgrown the grocery market as a whole.

Kevin Eastwood: BOSS executive director

For more than 20 years BOSS, the British Oil Security Syndicate, has worked closely with fuel retailers, police, government departments and other agencies to reduce crime. So how disappointing was it to hear from Norman Baker, the Minister of State for Crime Prevention and the chief constable of Durham during the summer that they blamed retailers for customers who drive-off without paying for fuel? Very disappointing indeed, but it did highlight how ill-informed they are regarding the issues we face.

Merril Boulton: Murco sold at last

Well thank goodness for that. The Murco network has been sold at last (see News, page 4) after four years on the market. It got to the stage where it seemed like it was never going to happen, and as in a 'whodunnit' that runs for too long, people seemed to have stopped even wondering about who indeed would be 'doing it'.

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

The recent news that the Klesch Group will acquire the UK refinery and terminal assets of Murphy Oil Company and that, around the same time, Motor Fuel Group will acquire its retail assets plus marketing and distribution to the dealers is welcome on several fronts.

David Charman: chairman CWA

Well, the summer seems to have come and gone all too quickly, but this year has seen car wash revenues increase for the first time in many years. Is it just the weather, or are we winning the battle against the rogue hand washes? Perhaps it is just that the rogue washes have become legitimate and their prices have had to increase, making the uneven playing field level again.

Merril Boulton: Refining at a cost

Amazing to visit the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery last month, and see the complex web of miles of pipework close up (see industry focus page 24), and wonder at the millions of chemical reactions that are constantly taking place within such dramatic structures.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

In the past few months, all eyes have been on the European Parliament elections and the nomination of a new president of the European Commission.

Peter Harding: Retail technology consultant

I continue to be amazed by 3D printing. The latest printers are now being retailed at below $250. While this is only a toy, in reality it proves the point that new technologies still exist and abound. Amazon in the US, for example, has launched a new service where you can customise jewellery and small items utilising 3D printing. Where is this going next?

Tracy West: Shop Talk

Call me sad but I like a survey. I don't always believe them, but I like to compare myself with those who've been surveyed.

Merril Boulton: Passion that drives retailers

Fuel retailers are extremely passionate about their business. They have to be to deal with all the daily aggro whether it's stock problems, equipment breakdowns, needy customers, or those wretched drivers who seem to think they can drive off without paying for fuel.

They also have to be passionate to make the huge investment in time and money that it takes to build a state-of-the-art location such as the Chartman Group's Winning Post site in Exeter (page 21). It took years of dealing with planning officials, burdensome bureaucracy, tactically waiting for the Little Chef next door to shut down, along with all the decisions that go into a major construction project. But eventually the work was completed and the company achieved its goal of creating a 'flagship' site that would turn heads.

It is also this kind of passion that has seen so many entries for our Forecourt Trader awards. The first round of judging is completed and we were amazed at the number of developments in the past year, the number of retailers sticking their necks out to invest in their businesses to make them look better, work better, and make them more successful.

Trouble is, it's this kind of passion that also makes retailers extremely upset when they get a visit from our Shop Doctor who declines to give them five stars in each category. Point one, he never does. He has no agenda, he speaks as he finds, observing what he sees and experiences as a customer, and then offers business advice from the point of view of a retailer with long experience in the industry. Like any customer, he might visit your site on the wrong day when certain things aren't quite as they should be; or he might not be familiar with why things have been done in a certain way. Nor are your customers.

He may have got the wrong impression of Rusdene Garage's Meon Hut site. When I saw it, I would have given it five stars. This month we're doing on-the-road judging so make sure your sites are in five star order!

James Lowman - chairman ACS

We've just released the results of an ambitious new project to find out what retailers, councillors and the general public think about the services on their high street. The report, called the Community Barometer, shows what people want in their local area and what they think government priorities should be in the future.

When asked about which services they would want more or less of in their local area, retailers saw banks and Post Offices as the two services that they were most keen to see an increase in. Overall, all groups (retailers/consumers/councillors) believed that Post Offices had the most positive impact on their local area. Convenience stores were also a popular choice, especially with councillors 50% of whom thought that independent convenience stores had the most positive impact. As expected, pawnbrokers and betting shops did not fare well at all.

It is clear from the report that people are missing dedicated services like post offices and banks, as well as specialist food offers. This is one of the reasons a growing number of retailers are taking on things like cash machines, Post Office Locals and food-to-go counters in store. More than half of the stores in the sector now have a cash machine and food-to-go is one of the fastest-growing categories in convenience. As retailers take on these important community functions, it is vital they make sure local people and councillors notice that they have done this and give them the credit they deserve.

One of the most interesting findings from the report was the unanimous agreement between retailers, councillors and consumers about the importance of intervention on business rates. We would expect retailers to see this as a priority issue, as they are the ones directly affected by rising rates bills, but for consumers to rate a reduction in business rates a priority ahead of other issues like parking shows that campaigns from trade associations and the media are striking a chord with the general public.

The overall message of the report is simple: people want diversity on their high streets. Specialist shops like butchers, independent stores and financial services are still desirable, and it's up to the government and local councils to provide the conditions that allow these businesses to thrive.

Kevin Eastwood - BOSS executive director

It's hard to believe but some police forces still treat theft of fuel as a civil offence. Revised Home Office guidance for Making Off Without Payment, issued in April, makes it clear that where an incident is intentional then a crime has been committed.

At the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS), we've redoubled our efforts to ensure that after incidents where customers deliberately drive off without paying, the police investigate and record the incident as a crime, tracing and pursuing offenders and then bringing them to justice.

In 2009, improvements to the national rules around the recording by police of these offences were made, thanks to tireless campaigning by BOSS. The Home Office's National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) has now been further amended to clarify that, on the balance of probability, deliberate making off without payment is a criminal offence as defined by law. Repeated incidents of no means of payment are also evidence of criminal behaviour.

What has become clear to BOSS is that the collection of evidence needs to be effective and accurate. If it is not, then the police may have reason not to pursue the investigation into these reports of crime.

Here is where our Payment Watch scheme has helped BOSS members. Following tried and tested processes, BOSS has made it less cumbersome to collect and report information about offences. Analysis of reports by BOSS has identified many persistent and repeat offenders, leading to successful prosecutions.

At BOSS we want to work in partnership with the police on behalf of our retail members. There is still much work to be done to show the police that by taking a co-ordinated approach to forecourt crime, detection rates and positive intervention can be significantly improved.

If any BOSS member is not getting the response they feel they should from their local police then, as long as staff are collecting and keeping the proper evidence, BOSS can take steps to challenge the police. Simply let us have the details and we will do what we can to address the issues raised.

But please remember, if you think it's a genuine mistake and not deliberate, then it is not a police matter and you should be clear on this before you make the call. The police are not here to act as debt collectors.

Tracy West: Shop Talk

While travelling through France recently, I purchased a fabulous product called Nutella & Go! That exclamation is theirs, not mine, but it deserves it because it is so good. Remember those KP dips that were all the rage years ago? Pots of chocolate with biscuit fingers to dip in well this is like them, only better.

So you get a pot of delicious Nutella and a few biscuits to dip in mmmmm. I was very excited about this and wondered why it wasn't available here.

But upon my return lo and behold within the news in the new Forecourt Trader Business Builder emailer (sign up for all the latest news, if you haven't aready done so), the imminent launch of Nutella & Go! in the UK was announced. Yippee I thought, but then read that I am too old to buy the product as it's aimed at teens and young adults. But buy it I definitely will. You see, while scoffing mine in the car on my journey through France, Mr West said he'd always been puzzled why I didn't buy Nutella at home. Simple really if I bought it, I'd eat it and probably at the rate of one tub at a time because it's so damn delicious. And it may be full of hazelnuts but it's also full of calories so the new size & Go! will suit me just fine as long as they're not on a 'two for one' deal of course.

Another product that I consumed on my French adventure was cola Calippo why, oh why, can't we have Calippos in cola flavour here? And, just prior to my break, I'd read that Asda was stocking a white chocolate and strawberry Magnum in an exclusive deal. That's not fair, I thought, until I tasted one while abroad too sickly for me.

Moving on, and I must say that I used to be quite impressed with French motorway services but not any more. I think it's because ours have improved so greatly yes they're expensive but at least with all the concessions you have a decent choice of food. And don't get me started on motorway service toilettes in France. They obviously don't have a version of our Forecourt Loo competition over there, or if they do, they're going for the 'worst' rather than 'best' prize. What's with their aversion to toilet seats and lids? Do people steal them or something?

And the smells. Have they never heard of a cleaning rota? Or air freshener?

AlI I can say is ooh là là!

Merril Boulton: Best result since England won the World Cup

Apart from it being really rather pleasing to get the words 'England won the World Cup' on the cover in the very month that the global football carnival kicks off, the latest industry figures show there are other things to be excited about (see Fuel Market Review, page 26).

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

On May 14, the Prime Minister said that a Scottish 'no' vote would open the way for the transfer of more powers to Edinburgh. The PRA has been adapting quickly to the new challenges that have arisen through the substantial powers that have already been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and to the Regional Assemblies representing Wales and Northern Ireland.

David Charman: chairman CWA

What an amazing country we live in: floods and gale force winds at Christmas and then hot sun and cold spells when spring arrives. This time the weather suits the wash industry to a tee.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

If I were a cynic, I might say that Tesco's decision to ban sweets from the checkouts of its Express and Metro stores was a PR ploy to overshadow its recent financial failures or win back people who believe it to be the 'big, bad wolf' of retailing.

Merril Boulton: Refining future supply

So last month the Government finally produced its report on the refining and fuel import sectors in the UK (it was due early January) and there seems to have been a collective gasp of disappointment (News Extra page 10). Chris Hunt, UKPIA director general (see column page 7) felt it failed to fully address the issues facing the industry, in particular the regulatory burdens imposed on the sector by the legislators. Considering there used to be 19 refineries in the UK 40 years ago, and there's now only seven with one or two teetering on the edge he does have a point.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

As I write this column, our downstream oil industry in the UK is on the threshold of a new relationship with government, one which we sincerely hope heralds meaningful change.

Peter Harding - Retail technology consultant

An interesting topic in retail every now and then is that of electronic shelf-edge labels (ESEL). These have been around for many, years but as yet no one in the UK has deployed them in any quantity. Historically the ESEL has been expensive and semi manual in so much as you had to stick a product ID/barcode to the price display. Too much effort!

Shop Talk with Tracy West

No-one puts a gun to your head when you enter a convenience store or supermarket and makes you buy certain items. But you'd think that was the case if you read the latest findings from Which?.

Merril Boulton Editor: Flushed with success

First let me congratulate the team at Bodmin Moor Services in Cornwall, part of the Chartman Group, for their admirable accomplishment in winning this year's award for the UK's Best Forecourt Loo (see news story on page 4).

James Lowman: ACS chief executive

We have had a run of major announcements affecting retail from George Osborne in his Budgets and Autumn Financial Statements, so by his standards the latest one was a low key affair. The compelling statistics were there: the economy is back in growth (2.4%) and the number of people unemployed has fallen again by 63,000.

Kevin Eastwood: BOSS executive director

There are one million reasons why BOSS has had a significant impact on forecourt crime over the past three years. This month BOSS recoveries for No Means of Payment (NMoP) cases reached a staggering £1m as a direct result of the BOSS Payment Watch scheme.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

Three cheers for David Charman, whose Parkfoot Garage in West Malling, Kent, scooped the Convenience Retailer of the Year award last month. I don't live too far away from this site so managed to take a look recently, and it really is very impressive. Where I live, the forecourts aren't that special but my trip to West Malling was worthwhile as David's site really does stand out from the rest of the crowd.

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Weekly Fuel Prices 21 August 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East118.2761.90126.24117.13
East Midlands117.6369.80126.49116.66
London118.0355.90127.17117.08
North East117.43130.46116.69
North West118.0254.90126.25117.19
Northern Ireland116.56124.73115.63
Scotland117.89126.26116.90
South East118.5057.90127.13117.54
South West118.2761.90127.28117.09
Wales117.73124.83116.67
West Midlands117.7764.40126.84117.03
Yorkshire & Humber117.6069.90128.75116.88

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