Happy New Year to one and all. Hope everything went well and you all enjoyed a successful festive period on your forecourts. Generally the outlook for the New Year looks pretty good for the forecourt convenience sector (see News Extra, page 10).

That’s if you ignore the explosively escalating tensions in the Middle East, of course. For a while back there, at the end of 2019, there appeared to be a period of calm after the intense political storms that had raged throughout the year leading up to the pre-Christmas election. A modicum of certainty then returned.

But no sooner had the New Year got underway then wham bam! and we’re all on edge again, with potentially far worse consequences. Hopefully it will all calm down, and we will be left with the usual oil price volatility, impacted by global activity such as strikes at French refineries and cuts in output by Opec, which the fuel retailing sector is more than used to even if it could well do without it!

Fuel prices were unlikely to be on their way down anyway, according to PRA chairman Brian Madderson, due to the changes on the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) which came into force on January 1, and which he calculates will add at least 1ppl to wholesale prices.

The RAC (see news, page 4 and Forecourt Trader website) said that, as it stands, it looks like at least 2ppl will be added to the price of both petrol and diesel in the next two weeks. But obviously we could be looking at far greater rises if the scale of conflict rises in the Middle East (see column by Chris Judge, Argus Media, page 8).

But back to the land where you do have some element of control, and the more heartening news that forecourt property prices are still holding up (see Property Focus on page 30). Steve Rodell of Christie & Co said as far as he is concerned, the market continues to power on, with the trading fundamentals being that fuel margins are good and shop sales are strong so petrol forecourts are still attractive. And there will be strong demand for them for some time to come. That’s more like it, something positive to reflect on. Welcome to the 2020s!