Texaco, Shell, Total and BP have emerged as the brands most favoured by independent dealers across the

nation, according to a revealing study of the sector, ’Dealer Insite 2010’, conducted by VSM Research on behalf of Forecourt Trader magazine.


Covering a representative cross-section of the independent dealer network from owners of rural sites to heads of the top independent multiple groups retailers responded to wide-ranging questions covering the standards of service offered by their oil company suppliers, their business concerns, and their plans for the future.


They were also questioned about other factors affecting their service station operations such as crime on the forecourt, car wash business and how they rate the service from their car wash suppliers, as well as their predictions for store turnover.


The majority of respondents were those with an oil company supply agreement, and included nearly half of the Top 50 Indies listing of independent multiples.


However, the majority (85%) operate just one forecourt; a quarter of respondents are on a weekly Platts agreement; while margin share and fixed rebate agreements each account for around one in five. Those who have a daily Platts agreement have the most forecourts 6.48 on average; fixed rebate the fewest at 1.18 on average, while those with margin share and weekly Platts agreements are closer to the average (1.85 and 2.22 forecourts).


The average fuel volume was 2.3 million litres per annum, with, as would be expected, those who have two or more forecourts selling higher volumes of fuel (5.11mlpa) than those with one forecourt (1.78mlpa); and those with a daily Platts agreement sell 3.78mlpa compared with 1.78mlpa among those on a fixed rebate agreement.


Once again retailers with margin share and weekly Platts arrangements emerge around the average for independent dealer fuel volumes (2.4mlpa and 2.29mlpa).


Texaco topped the list in terms of current supplier, with one in five of respondents being supplied by the brand. Texaco tends to be the brand favoured by those with single forecourts, while Shell, Total, and BP were more popular among those with two or more forecourts. The top three reasons given for choosing Texaco, Shell or Total were established relationship/past experience; provision of the best package when negotiating; and price-related issues.


Texaco is the brand independent dealers would most like to work with in the future. More specifically, those on a fixed rebate agreement would most like to work with BP, those on a margin share agreement would most like to work with Total; those on a weekly Platts agreement would most like to work with Texaco; and those on a daily Platts agreement would most like to work with BP or Esso. The top three factors in terms of service delivery from fuel suppliers were found to be on-time deliveries, price competitiveness and fairness of the agreement, each named as ’very important’ by more than eight in 10 of the respondents.


Encouragingly, more than seven in 10 retailers are confident about the future of their business, albeit ’fairly’ (47%) confident rather than ’very’ (24%). More than eight in 10 are concerned about the economy and fuel pricing. Three quarters are concerned about business rates and environmental issues.


"This is an essential piece of research for anyone interested in knowing how today’s independent petrol retailers think about their suppliers, their businesses and their future," says John Lewis, executive director of Forecourt Trader publisher William Reed Business Media Ltd.