So now we know that our beloved petrol stations have an end date, or do they? I have been around this industry all my life, man and boy, and during that time I have witnessed some huge changes in our industry. Back in the early 1970s, I would have been legally able to serve customers before I was tall enough to even reach the till. Most customers bought £1-worth, which was 4.3 gallons (just under 20 litres). The first huge investment was moving customers to ’self-service’ and then to buying in litres.
At this point, our million-gallon site, along with the famous Dover service area, were two of the busiest in Kent. Supermarkets did not sell fuel come to think of it there weren’t really many supermarkets. Moving on saw the rise of a new fuel, unleaded, and the gradual dieselisation of the UK forecourt. Finally, there was the rise of premium fuels into the market, leading to eight-hose pumps which then became the norm.
What all of these changes had in common was that they clearly showed to a forward-thinking retailer, that investment in their site had a real purpose, to increase fuel volume and margin and make more money.
This latest announcement of the removal of new diesel and petrol cars from the road should be making us all consider how to change our sites to maximise the potential that this offers only it’s not as simple as that. All of the changes in the past were sensible solutions to a changing market. There are so many unknowns at the moment, with no single agreed charging connection or solution to invest in.
I am most concerned about how we incentivise dealers to make sure that 7,000 locations remain available to charge all these electric cars and wonder what the implication of the loss of a vast tax revenue from duty will have. Oh and of course, we still need to work out how we can charge many vehicles at one time, as 100kva has its limitations. This all leads to uncertainty, which, coupled with sky-high site values has seen a huge amount of quality retailers deciding that the time is right to sell. We need our government now to be clear about how they want us to transport ourselves in 20 years’ time, not just have an aspiration.