Apart from it being really rather pleasing to get the words ’England won the World Cup’ on the cover in the very month that the global football carnival kicks off, the latest industry figures show there are other things to be excited about (see Fuel Market Review, page 26).
After 48 years of ’hurt’, with site numbers falling since 1966 from close to 40,000 to last year’s 8,590, there is now something of an upturn in the UK’s fuel retailing network universe (according to the latest data from Catalist UK). It’s not a huge increase in numbers - 26 - but it is significant. The closure rate has been slowing in recent years from the sickening heights of the ’90s when the march of the supermarkets really kicked in, along with Esso’s Pricewatch campaign. Forecourts were closing in huge numbers - 1,496 closed between 1995-1996 according to the Institute of Petroleum’s figures at the time. The start of the century didn’t look much better.
But this year’s figures are an indicator that the closure rate has finally bottomed out, confirmation that the sector has achieved a level of stability by transforming itself into a dynamic retailing environment. It is attracting investment and innovation from big corporations and traditional fuel retailing companies alike.
The latest figures are also encouraging in their revelation that it is the dealer sector that has grown significantly by 154 led by the transfer of the Esso company-owned sites into the dealer network. But it’s not just the big dealer groups that are transforming the image of the sector. Confidence in the business has inspired courageous developments at all levels - just look at this issue in which we report on the completion of two stunning developments, one by the Chartman Group (Retail Spotlight, page 21) and another by the Garner Group (page 24). They have set themselves up to compete with the best in the business whether in-store or on the forecourt. A welcome upturn indeed.