Shell is certainly pushing the buttons of independent retailers nationwide as it continues with what is emerging as a brutal and incomprehensible pricing stance.

No one seems to have a clue why Shell is doing it - and so far the company has not come back to us with any explanation either. If it’s for market share, then it’s not having a huge impact, not nationally anyhow, according to recent figures from Catalist.

Rumours abound in the trade that the company has made its money for the year - high refinery margins - so is happy to give the fuel away. That would be ludicrous. Then there are suggestions that Shell is trying to take a few more sites out of the market. Why? Isn’t the fuel retailing infrastructure already creaking, with a shrinking number of sites serving a greater number of motorists? And what’s interesting here is that the Shell sites are getting so busy in parts that motorists are forced - or simply prefer - to go to other nearby forecourts which are offering good service and reasonable shop prices. And more importantly they still have fuel when the Shell sites run out.

Someone even told me Shell’s pricing manager had left - so is the cleaner doing it now? There is such a thing as being competitive, but selling fuel at a retail price below the cost most retailers can buy it wholesale - when buying many thousands of litres - is ridiculous. Retailers feel incensed and powerless to do anything about it but write to the Office of Fair Trading. It’s worth a try. Otherwise, as one retailer said, what protection does the well-managed, well-financed, small/middle-sized business have from the mega multinational juggernaut? None.

Season’s greetings to you all.