Happy New Year to you all I hope trading was bouyant over the festive season. But while I had intended to continue in positive fashion, I am sorry to hear that it wasn’t a very good start to the New Year for Top 50 Indie, High Noon Stores, which went into administration on December 30 (see News page 4). Scant information is currently available, but I hope the difficulties can be resolved. If not, it would be the first Top 50 Indie to hit the buffers since 2012, when Scottish independent Calanike which had 19 sites ceased trading.

Elsewhere in the Top 50 listing, it seems the mood could not be more different, with the top echelons which seem to have very deep pockets eyeing up the smaller groups as they seek to continue to grow their networks. The most recent of these is the purchase of Spring Petroleum by MRH, boosting its network by another 27 sites.

But whatever their size, many dealers are looking to expand and redevelop their forecourt portfolios; and in the absence of the right opportunity, build new-to-industry sites. While positive, all this activity puts extreme pressure on prices (see Property focus page 31), with some in the know suggesting that there will be fewer significant acquisitions this year, because of the inflated prices being demanded.

The danger is, will that site, or group of sites, be more expensive next year? Will you know when prices have peaked? Will it be a missed opportunity not to buy at what seems like an outrageous price now because it might be an even more outrageous price next year? Who knows? For some it could be a roll of the dice.

Meanwhile others suggest the current Top 50 will be decimated in terms of being swallowed up by those with serious growth ambitions. But all-in-all, it looks like the industry is expecting another very positive year ahead (see News Extra, p10), with opportunities aplenty for forward-thinking forecourt operators with good fuel supply deals and a great convenience business. Here we go it’s 2017!