Happy New Year to you all let’s hope it’s a good one, as the song goes. As we launch into 2019, things appear pretty positive for the fuel retailing sector, with property prices staying strong despite the big deals done last year (see Focus on Property, p31). Even MFG’s buyout of MRH, which it was thought at the time might burst the property-price balloon, failed to take significant heat out of the market. With Prax Petroleum’s purchase of big dealer group HKS, and oil companies like Certas Energy and particularly Jet back on the acquisition trail, competition for sites remains strong. And there’s plenty of talk and debate among certain dealers hoping to expand their networks, looking approvingly at their good margins and positive numbers for the year, and still seeking growth.
Shells’ Bernie Williamson (see News Extra, page 10) believes the year ahead will see great opportunities for retailers in 2019 as the face of the UK forecourt continues to be re-shaped. With one third of transactions on a Shell forecourt not including a fuel purchase at all, that represents great potential for continuing to innovate and plug into the convenience and food-to-go opportunities. It’s also wise to build in a certain immunity to the potential of declining traditional fuel sales although there again, it is not thought that 2019 is likely to be the breakout year for alternatively fuelled vehicles such as electric plug-ins. As the PRA’s Brian Madderson puts it, there will be lots of noise and froth, but there will be no big changes. E10 is also unlikely to make an appearance, as the government struggles with the ’B’ word I guess I had to mention it eventually. What can anyone do but press on with realistic caution.
You all know what the challenges are, and have proved resilient over the years. But don’t you just want to put a sock in the mouth of that American financial analyst Tom Forte of DA Davidson who has suggested it might be a good idea if Amazon got into fuel retailing. Ooh yes, he lurches on, just think of the benefit of the addition of thousands of commerical locations to advance its delivery efforts. Plus the sale of fuel would also provide another stream of income. Don’t go giving them ideas!