My crystal ball looking into the future of petrol retailing has scarcely been cloudier.
The price of Brent Crude has been falling for some weeks down from a New Year high of US$70 to just US$50 at the start of March. This resulted from bearish forecasts about oil demand due to increasing concerns over the direction of the Chinese economy. In parallel, our new government made bold pronouncements about tackling climate change by moving the Road to Zero goalposts from 2040 to 2035.
Irrespective of the Secretary of State for Transport’s subsequent throwaway comment that 2032 might be possible, we now have demands from a collective of 60 charities wanting 2030 to be the target date.
A new Chancellor is wrestling with his first Fiscal Budget for 2020 to be delivered on March 11 but will it be a heroic tax-cutting, high-spending version or will it be a more cautionary budget?
The UK still has to finalise exit arrangements with the EU... and then we learn about the Coronavirus that started in China and is spreading to many other countries including the British Isles, which could have a devasting impact on the economy and our way of life. How does anyone predict even the short-term future with such variables in the mix?
All these factors are significant in determining the outlook for business but none more so than Covid19, as it is now known, which carries the risk of becoming a pandemic.
Media-led panic must obviously be avoided but already government has been making emergency plans which will include fuel supply.
Meantime retail fuel volumes are holding up quite well possibly influenced by successive price drops at the pumps convenience stores and food-to-go remain popular destinations, car valeting demand is improving as the non-compliant hand car wash sector comes under closer regulatory scrutiny and forecourt assets are still changing hands at high levels according to the professionals.
Let us hope that 2020 turns out to be successful for everyone.