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?
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.
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).
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."
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.