Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community
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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.

Merril Boulton: Esso opportunity

So the final tranche of Esso's company- owned network is now the focus of ambitious forecourt entrepreneurs as the official push to sell the southern block of 200 sites gets under way. Whether they're new to the industry or established fuel retailers hoping to expand their networks, they will all be subject to Esso's lengthy and rigorous processes, so there won't be a conclusion to the bidding any time soon.

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

After four years at the helm of the Petrol Retailers Association, it is good to be able to pen a more positive note at the start of 2014.

David Charman: chairman CWA

What a start to the car washing year rain, rain and more rain. The only consolation we can take from this is that there will be no water shortages around the corner. Famous last words?

Tracy West: Shop Talk

If you're not already selling e-cigarettes, you really should be. That's because a hot-off-the-press report from Mintel says the market has achieved a stunning 340% growth over the past year, from an estimated £44m in 2012 to an estimated £193m last year. Wow is all I can say and get them on your shelves while you still can!

Merril Boulton: Major frustration

The major oil brands have come in for a bit of flack in this issue and you sense that the balance of power is shifting. The consistent message from independents is that they're just not getting the kind of service that they need to develop their businesses.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

Stepping into a New Year calls for reflection and 2013 was a momentous one for our downstream oil industry.

Peter Harding - Retail technology consultant

Many rumours abounded in 2013 about technology and what it could do for us. This year the push seems to be on three key technology areas and I bring a few to the fore in this article. The main emphasis falls into the following areas: mobile, wearable technology and 3D printing.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

What have Quaker Oat So Simple breakfast biscuits, Maltesers Merryteaser, Mars Minis, Persil Small & Mighty and Tropicana Trop 50 all got in common?

Merril Boulton: 2014 - positive signs

And so another year begins, and apart from the rather bleak weather there's definitely an increasingly positive feel coming from the industry as we head into 2014. Yes, it's still very tricky and competitive out there, and it's certainly no time to relax the strict disciplines and practices learned in recent times. But business seems to have generally been improving in the past few months, with many retailers reporting better sales over the Christmas period compared with the previous year. The economy also seems to be inching its way forward at last.

James Lowman: chairman ACS

There is a growing consensus that radical change to the business rates system is required. We have been arguing for a long time that if the government wants to see businesses investing and creating jobs, then it has to take clear steps to reduce the costs that stand in its way.

Kevin Eastwood: BOSS executive director

How many times can a motorist fill up, claim to have left their method of payment behind, promise to pay within a week but then fail to do so? Once, possible, twice, doubtful, three times or more suggests treatment for Alzheimers or they're behaving in a dishonest manner and should be treated as criminals.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

Happy New Year to you all let's hope it's a good one! It's always difficult to predict the future but, at this time of year, industry people are falling over themselves to give it a go. Take Sainsbury's, for instance, which has said shoppers are better than ever at finding value really? Not a great surprise but surely, it's a case of 'needs must' for most of them? A top bod from the grocery multiple adds that value isn't always about the lowest price but increasingly about quality, provenance and ethics something he calls the 'value of values'. However, there are still thousands are shoppers out there who can't afford provenance and ethics, and so are simply looking for good value.

Merril Boulton: Signs of a lively and prosperous 2014

We may be hurtling towards the end of the year, but there's no sign yet of a quiet night in by the Christmas tree for the likes of Brian Madderson, and the industry's new best friend Alan Powell, the tax expert who is described as having successfully challenged the government on a number of contentious issues.

Brian Madderson - Chairman PRA

We all remember the 'panic buying' in late March 2012 when there was the prospect of industrial action by Unite tanker drivers that could have interrupted fuel supplies to forecourts across the UK. This situation had been inflamed by ill-judged advice from a Cabinet Minister that encouraged motorists to stock up on road fuels at home.

David Charman - Chairman CWA

As we enter the money months of car washing, take time to reflect on what has happened within our industry over the past few years.

Shop talk with Tracy West

It's that most wonderful time of the year Christmas, of course. And, as an independent retailer, it's your time to shine.

Merril Boulton: Duty deferment - a game changer

The Regeneration Forum hosted by the PRA last month, was extremely illuminating and not just in terms of the information aired, particularly the presentation about duty deferment (of which more later).

UKPIA: Christ Hunt

As I write this column the focus of our attention has been on the uncertainty about the future of the Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland.

Peter Harding - Retail technology consultant

Question. Where should the site manager/operator spend most of their time? Answer. In the shop, looking after customers and ensuring that stock levels are correct and that the store is well merchandised, promotions to the fore.

Merril Boulton: Leading by example

Firstly, many congratulations to all the finalists and winners at last month's glittering awards ceremony (full report starts on page 45). Particular praise goes, of course, to this year's Forecourt Trader of the Year winners, Zuber and Mohsin Issa of Euro Garages, who were too modest to come up on stage to collect their award as it was announced, but encouraged members of their much-valued staff to be recognised for their considerable achievements.

Kevin Eastwood - BOSS executive director

Criminals who operate on UK forecourts come in all shapes and sizes, from individual drive-off offenders to organised gangs who steal fuel in bulk. At BOSS we recognise the need to match these shapes and sizes to have a strong deterrent effect or, failing that, to identify, apprehend and bring offenders to justice. That's why we've developed strong partnerships, not only within the industry but across government, law enforcement and with specialist agencies whose expertise supports our drive to tackle forecourt crime.

Shop Talk with Tracy West

Sometimes it would be nice to know what the future holds. Whether the recession is well and truly behind us, for example, or even what the weather will actually do.

David Charman: chairman CWA

The summer has been kind to forecourt operators this year. Blasting sun and hot temperatures have meant that our sites have been a magnet for drinks, ice creams and BBQ necessities; but have the standards at our sites been enough to interest and keep customers interested in all aspects of our business?

Shop talk with Tracy west

I've been doing one of my favourite work things lately, which is going out and about visiting convenience retailers and I've seen some fantastic stores and brilliant products.

Surprising development

Well, what a pleasant surprise for a change. Just when the industry was going about its business and had given up expecting any kind of assistance in ensuring fair trading, up popped a European Commission inquiry into alleged oil-price fixing (see News Extra, page 10).

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

In March 2012, Bloomberg reported that a commission appointed by the G20 nations' finance ministers called for stricter regulation of price-reporting agencies (now confusingly referred to as PRA by the media) to prevent the manipulation of oil markets. At that time, a consultation document published by the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) said: "There is a risk that a price-reporting agencies benchmark price can be manipulated by the submission of false prices or by over- or under-stating volumes transacted."

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

As I write this, our never-ending winter seems to be continuing, although some sections of the media have become excited because temperatures might approach the dizzy heights of 14oC!

Peter Harding - Retail technology consultant

Something that has been on my mind for some time, and is a fascinating new technology, is 3D printing. Yes, the ability to print items in 3D ie solid. This technology allows users to print a solid object from a CAD drawing. What? I hear you say. The ability to print an object is not only possible, but it's a reality. Printers have been available for some time, but let's not get carried away as the size and type of item that can be printed is limited. But the rate of growth and advancement is amazing.

David Charman: chairman CWA

This year has been a tough year for car washing. Unsettled weather and tough competition have meant the pressure is really on to capture wash business when the sun does shine. Our industry has been on the back foot for so many years that we have lost sight of the value of car washing. Machines have improved tremendously and the products we use for cleaning and polishing are vastly better than those of a decade ago. However, we have been so intent on trying to drive business by price alone that our average wash price has hardly moved. I truly believe that the only way we can survive and prosper is to retail our programmes for what they are excellent cleaning and polishing products.

Merril Boulton: Pricing deterrent

Having recently driven from the top to the bottom of France and back again, one of the main things I can vouch for apart from the beautiful weather! is the relatively low price of fuel.

Merril Boulton: Welcome relief

So lobbying does work or government U-turns on tax are right on trend at the moment! But the fact there will no longer be a fuel duty tax rise in August is a great relief to the industry and motorists alike. Plaudits must go to everyone involved in the campaign to cancel the proposed rise, in particular Brian Madderson, chairman of RMI Petrol (which has now gone back to its old name of Petrol Retailers' Association, by popular demand).

Merril Boulton: Happy birthday to us!

Welcome to our silver anniversary issue. Yes, unbelievably Forecourt Trader is 25 years old, and in celebration the team has pulled the stops out to create this bumper issue.

Merril Boulton: OFT brush-off

It wasn't quite the response he was looking for, but at least the Office of Fair Trading didn't completely slam the door in Brian Madderson's face when considering whether to conduct a market study into road fuel retailing (see News Extra).

Merril Boulton: Pricing woes

It was the perfect moment to make a submission to the Office of Fair Trading for an investigation into the UK fuels market. Diesel prices have hit record levels, crude prices are on their way up, refineries are faltering and putting pressure on supply; and independent fuel retailers are struggling to compete with the likes of Morrisons offering 15ppl discount.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 2 October 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East Midlands120.03127.76118.80
North East119.80129.71118.46
North West120.19127.87118.63
Northern Ireland119.22125.23117.53
South East120.7259.90129.39119.48
South West120.39128.00119.02
West Midlands120.0865.90128.12118.84
Yorkshire & Humber119.73127.02118.57

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As many forecourt operators continue their quest for expansion - driving up forecourt prices - could you be tempted to sell your business?