A happy and prosperous New Year to you all, and as we kick off 2015, it’s not looking at all bad for the independent dealer sector is it?

The big story during the past few months has been the ongoing fall in fuel prices, which currently shows no sign of abating. As we went to press Asda was boasting of a new national price cap of 105.7ppl for unleaded (see News pages) compared to 126.7ppl this time last year. The drop in prices is good news for retailers, not just because it eases cash flow and card charges EKW estimates the lower pump price should add 0.56ppl to a retailer’s bottom line (see Money Talk, page 14); but because it’s also good news for motorists, who may feel slightly more relaxed about filling up on the forecourt and spending a bit more in the shop.

The evidence of this easing on the customer purse was revealed in DECC’s latest figures which showed a year-on-year increase in retail and commercial fuel volumes of 1.5% (see News page 5). However, it seems not everyone benefited from a growth in sales. Once again Sainsbury’s overall sales slumped 2.5% in the third quarter, but only 0.4% without the fuel.

More reasons to feel a little boost in morale is that despite Tesco’s rise in fuel sales (see News page 5), the company is generally not having the best of times, and has announced store closures, and shelved plans for the opening of a further 49 new, large stores. This reflects a general slowdown in big supermarket developments that has been evident in the past year (see Property feature, page 37).

On top of all this, dealer numbers are on the rise, as those owned by oil companies fall: highlights include the fact that Esso will conclude the sale of its remaining tranche of sites; while Shell is selling 250 sites to independents. Dealer numbers should increase to more than 6,000 up from 5,400 (see News Extra). Wow. It seems like Christmas is here again already!