A Budgens forecourt owner has experienced record shop sales as the coronavirus crisis has taken hold, but after a brief surge in fuel sales volumes have shrunk to about 15% of their usual level.

Goran Raven of Ravens Budgens, at Abridge in Essex, says he’s been in the industry many years and the only thing he can think of that remotely comes close to the pressure on sites was the fuel strike of about 20 years ago.

He said: “March began as a normal month for us tracking March 2019 fairly closely until the 11th, that’s when the shop sales just sent through the roof. Comparing March 12-31 last year versus this year we have seen a 70% uplift in shop sales - including the busiest day’s trading we have ever had.”

Goran said the supply chain had been stretched beyond the breaking point. “For the last two weeks I have had more empty shelves than full. Bookers are doing their best, but we are receiving nowhere near what we need to restock properly or that we could sell. Local suppliers have dug us out of holes.

“Local butchers, bakers etc have gone above and beyond, so we have had some level of constant delivery. Even so it still does not feed the demand. There are too many products we just cannot get, all of which are basic grocery lines. We started imposing limits on what people could buy very early on, about March 13, even so that has not stopped the store being emptied as soon as stock has been put out.”

At the beginning of the crisis fuel volumes doubled overnight, however the lock-down has seen fuel sales now contract to about 15% of the site’s standard sales levels.

He added: “We have seen the best and worse in people throughout this. On Saturday 21 we had to shut the site for five hours due to threats and intimidation of staff while trying to get a delivery of fresh food out. So far this has been the lowest moment for me. On the other hand I have seen some amazing things. Two days ago an ambulance driver was in store getting his groceries, when he came to pay, a stranger paid for him. I wish we knew who that person was, but we don’t – just a random act of kindness that almost brought the ambulance driver to tears.

“Shop sales are still strong and steady, but could be much higher if we could get the products.”