If the start of 2018 is anything to go by, it’s going to be another lively year in the forecourt sector. I guess we’ve got somewhat used to the bigger fishes in the pond buying the smaller ones, and to this end we saw MFG adding to its numbers with 14 sites from the Golden Cross Group; and also Harvest Energy buying Retail Fuels Ltd and gaining nine sites. With prices so high is there a peak in sight? Who can blame retailers for selling up while the going is good, even though it might not have been in their original plans (see Focus on Property, page 32)? But with all these great companies and characters disappearing from our Top 50 Indies listing, where can a big acquisitive group go next? Ah yes, make a play for one that’s even bigger as in MFG, reported to be weighing up a bid for MRH.

It’s likely that someone’s put two and two together and made five, but what an empire that would be. As Brian Madderson says (see News Extra, page 10) consolidation seems to be the current buzzword.

However, while the giants fight among themselves, it’s good to see a real character Peter Hockenhull return to the fold (see Retailer Insight, page 24). A great forecourt family story, illustrating the courage and entrepreneurial skill that characterises the traditional independent forecourt retailers who continue to thrive despite the challenges. I don’t doubt others who’ve recently sold off their sites will return to dabble at some point.

Elsewhere, no surprise to see that carbon tailpipe emissions have risen for the first time since 1997, as drivers dump their diesel cars and return to petrol-engined vehicles. Duh! That’s how we got into this mess. Diesel cars typically emit 20% less CO2 than a petrol-engined vehicle. With modern, low-emission diesels getting such erroneous press coverage, and alternatives such as electric power still in their infancy, is it any wonder this will be the result?

Meanwhile, apparently two-thirds of drive-offs are not people driving away from the pumps, but customers failing to pay for their fuel once they enter the store (see BOSS column, page 13). Now that really is surprising. Welcome to 2018!