Another strange month has passed in this weird environment that we are all trying to come to terms with as we try to return to some kind of normal. Forecourts up and down the land have been doing an amazing job it seems as they have adjusted to the unprecedented upheaval and rollercoaster lockdown ride (see Retail Insight page 20).
Where possible they have turned their hand to providing anything their customers deem ‘essential’ whether it be bags of flour for home baking or colourful containers of flowers to plant in the garden. Some retailers have also entered the realms of care in the community, with concerned forecourt teams engaging in home deliveries more informal at first, but increasingly becoming a much more organised part of the business. They have risen to the challenge of adding other strands to their business as they struggle with the collapse in fuel volumes; and overall have shown how adaptable and entrepreneurial they can be.
Overall though, forecourt operations have taken a huge hit, with fuel volumes having fallen off a cliff; and shop volumes settling back to more normal levels after the initial surge; not to mention a rise in crime for many (see News Extra page 10).
Better news is that in recent weeks volumes have been creeping up as people begin to venture out again to work, school or to sit in traffic jams as they attempt to get to the beach/McDonald’s/IKEA! However, as PRA chairman Brian Madderson considers, (see his column page 7) what is the likelihood of fuel demand returning to previous norms? Positive signs are that at the moment people are being encouraged to take to their cars rather than public transport; and with all the international travel uncertainty, a holiday on home shores is far more likely. I think his estimation of fuel volumes at year-end still down between 10-20% is probably an accurate one, and not too bad all things considered.
It also concurs with the conclusion by Arthur Renshaw of Experian Catalist in our latest Fuel Market Review, (see page 24) that the forecourt sector has shown that it can adapt and is likely to come out of the crisis in better shape than many other businesses.