Research by Lumina Intelligence reveals postive outlook by top independent retailers, despite the uncertainty about the transition to alternative fuels

FT Top 50 Indies 2021 ASC_4351

The majority of the biggest independent forecourt operators describe the current trading environment as positive, despite being uncertain about the future of alternative fuels, according to the latest research by Lumina Intelligence, revealed at this week’s Top 50 Indies dinner.

Forecourt Trader editor Merril Boulton and publisher Lorraine Hendle warmly welcomed retailers to the exclusive gathering at The Belfry Hotel & Resort near Birmingham. The annual Top 50 Indies report was revealed in March in a webinar – the dinner being postponed due to Covid restrictions – and is still available on the Forecourt Trader website.

However, retailers were given a mid-year update on the changes since then, with headlines including EG Group’s acquisition of 320 Asda forecourts following the purchase of Asda by EG Group’s owners Mohsin and Zuber Issa and TDR Capital; the subsequent CMA-required sale of 27 EG sites to a single buyer – currently in progress; further acquisitions by MFG, as well as the ongoing activity by its private equity owners CDR to acquire Morrisons.

The research of the biggest independent retailers was presented by Jill Livesey, managing director of Lumina Intelligence: “This is the second year we have interviewed forecourt operators to capture their outlook on the sector and thoughts on the longer term issues facing the industry,” she said.

“We are encouraged to find 66.7% of operators describe the current trading environment in the forecourt sector as positive. To put this into context, the Lumina Intelligence July business leaders survey with grocery retailers revealed 37% of leaders felt positive about the sector which is clearly more cautious than the forecourt sector.”

Livesey said retail in forecourts had played a big part in this confidence and commercial success: “We know that the majority of small-format convenience and forecourt stores received high volumes of shoppers in 2020; 73% of forecourt operators have seen an increase in footfall with food- -to-go, fresh and chilled naturally the driver of this.”

The aim of the survey was also to capture confidence levels going forward and not only to reflect on last year. The majority of operators were happy with their current fuel supplier (60%) but nearly a quarter of them said they might be considering changing: “We believe this to be quite high and indicates change ahead,” confirmed Livesey.

To help understand satisfaction and expectation 83% of operators said competitive terms were the most important influencer on choosing their fuel provider, followed by dependability, with 73% expecting reliable supply and on-time deliveries.

The areas of concern cited as the most important business challenge in the next five years was overwhelming, revealed Livesey: “Eighty per cent said they remain uncertain about the future of alternative fuels, with 54% stressing the importance of this in the future. With the industry constantly looking at new partnerships and new offers for their customers, half of operators said they believe collaboration with delivery aggregators will be very important going forward.”