Beneath all the excruciating political noise and in spite of it life goes on. And forecourts are in the fortunate position of being an essential part of that daily life. People still need to get to work, they need to refuel, buy breakfast, coffee, lunch, a few groceries and everything else in between. And whatever happens with the whole Europe thing, that will still be the case.
And that is reflected in the huge amount of activity in the forecourt sector. Our regular e-newsletters are full of news about fuel and shop supply deals, and retailers both large and small making huge investment in developing their forecourt operations. Just look at the examples in this issue Westmorland completing a £3m ’revamp’ of Cairn Lodge Services; Lincolnshire Co-op spending £1.6m on its Whaplode Food Store & Filling station; and George Hammond’s KDRB of its site in Tonbridge, Kent.
Forecourt retailers have had to become creative and dynamic entrepreneurs over the past 20 years, changing with the times, and always looking to maximise any business opportunity. Much of the reason for that was because the supermarkets came along in the ’90s and decimated retail fuel margins with their heavy discounts on fuel. Well, it seems that although the supermarkets have been somewhat distracted dealing with their own discount rivals (messrs Aldi and Lidl), they are not beyond potentially causing a bit more bother to forecourt retailers (see News Extra, page 10). The PRA’s Brian Madderson believes thousands more sites could close if Sainsbury’s and Asda’s response to the disapproval of aspects of their merger by the Competition and Markets Authorities (CMA) came to fruition.
Interestingly, the response/suggested remedies include, among other things, making a payment to the new operator of any forecourt they had to sell to comply with the CMA for every litre sold, in order to keep prices down. I’m sure a lot of retailers in the ’90s would have appreciated such a subsidy!
Meanwhile, for all those entrepreneurs seeking new ideas and opportunities, see you at The Forecourt Show!