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Kevin Eastwood: BOSS

Kevin Eastwood

BOSS Executive Director

Tracy West: retail commentator

Life is all about choice but increasingly choices are being taken away from us apparently for our own good.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus

Brent crude and wholesale gasoil prices ended 2017 at their highest since May 2015. UK drivers are paying more for diesel than they have in three years, with petrol not far behind. Falling crude stocks in the US were the immediate reason for the Brent price rising past $66.50/bl at the start of January, and several days of protests in Iran are adding a geopolitical risk premium, although output has not been affected.

James Lowman: chief executive, ACS

You may have seen and heard ACS in the media over Christmas talking about some changes to the way the police, courts and government are responding to shop theft. There are a couple of separate issues at play here.

Merril Boulton: editor

If the start of 2018 is anything to go by, it's going to be another lively year in the forecourt sector. I guess we've got somewhat used to the bigger fishes in the pond buying the smaller ones, and to this end we saw MFG adding to its numbers with 14 sites from the Golden Cross Group; and also Harvest Energy buying Retail Fuels Ltd and gaining nine sites. With prices so high is there a peak in sight? Who can blame retailers for selling up while the going is good, even though it might not have been in their original plans (see Focus on Property, page 32)? But with all these great companies and characters disappearing from our Top 50 Indies listing, where can a big acquisitive group go next? Ah yes, make a play for one that's even bigger as in MFG, reported to be weighing up a bid for MRH.

Tracy West: Retail commentator

This Christmas your present, as an independent retailer, should arrive on Christmas Eve. It will hopefully come in the form of the extra trade you'll get once the grocery multiples shut their doors, typically at 4pm. And that is, of course, because of our Sunday Trading Laws and the fact that Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year.

David Charman: md Parkfoot Garage

As we head towards another busy Christmas period, it's time to reflect on the past year and try to make sense of what 2018 will bring to our ever-surprising business sector.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

Opec and its non-Opec partners decided on November 30 to extend their production cuts for another nine months, until the end of next year. Expectations of the deal had been keeping crude futures prices above $63/bl since November 22, supporting road fuel prices.

Brian Madderson: PRA chairman

This government has a clear view that our future economic prosperity will be assured if the UK can emerge as global leaders in the race to a new transportation era. This involves automated vehicles and alternatively fuelled vehicles.

Merril Boulton: Editor

It's hard to believe that such a long-established company as Palmer and Harvey which was firmly entrenched in the life of many forecourt operations over a considerable period is no longer (see News Extra, page 10). I really feel for the hard-working and long-suffering staff, who invested considerable effort in trying to make things work especially those who had sizeable financial investment at stake. The once-busy warehouses, and trucks emblazoned with the familiar P&H logo, are now standing idle.

Tracy West: retail commentator

Now that Halloween is out of the way, you can turn your attention to creating some fabulous Christmas displays.

Ray Blake: PRA technical director

One of the services the Petrol Retailers Association offers to its members is that of conciliation between themselves and their suppliers particularly fuel ones. Our help is sought a number of times each year, most often when cross-overs have occurred (petrol into a diesel tank or vice versa), during a delivery to a site. All cases to date have and are most likely to involve driver- assisted deliveries, and have been resolved to the satisfaction of our members.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

The after effects of Hurricane Harvey can still be felt at UK sites, with diesel prices at a wide premium to petrol. In the international markets, the premium has begun to shrink again now that US refineries have resumed normal operations, but growing underlying diesel demand is keeping distillate crack spreads stronger than gasoline as we enter the heating season.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

Well, all good things must come to an end and for me that is the end of November when I retire from UKPIA after 20 years at the Association. One thing that marks our industry is constant change.

Merril Boulton: editor

The electric agenda seems to be pushing along at a high rate of knots at least as far as the headlines are concerned. Just this week PRA chairman Brian Madderson has twice given evidence to MPs on the subject. He first appeared as a witness before a committee of MPs following the first reading in the House of Commons of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (see News Extra page 10). This will give the government powers to make it compulsory for public charging points to be installed at 'large fuel retailers' and service stations. Of course there is no definition of what 'large' is at this stage does it mean the size of plot, fuel sales or size of the company, as in a group with a national network? Which was precisely Brian's point.

Tracy West: Shop Talk

It's not often nowadays that I get excited about a new product. That's because most aren't really new at all as often they've just been resurrected in new packaging. However, I'm loving the new Tic Tacs I discovered very recently. They're called Breeze, they're sugar free and they come in super-strong flavours. I tried Aniseed and also Eucalyptus there may be others but these were the only ones I saw.

Kevin Eastwood: BOSS - executive director

When I meet with forecourt retailers it is not uncommon to be told that they feel the police do not respond when they report incidents. Admittedly how each police force reacts to a report depends on each chief constable who determines how his or her force deploys their resources.

Charlotte Blum: Analysis editor

The effects of Hurricane Harvey initially drove road fuel markets higher in North West Europe after it hit the US Gulf coast on August 25, but only diesel remains tight. Diesel prices have risen from a discount to a premium to gasoline, which has widened the usual UK retail premium of diesel with biofuel to petrol. Much of the refining capacity closed by Harvey reopened, but throughput in the US Gulf was still 1.1mn b/d below pre-Harvey August levels in late September.

James Lowman chief executive, ACS

At the end of September, we put our annual submission into government ahead of the Chancellor's budget, setting out the measures that we believe will help the convenience sector in the coming year. You can read the submission in full on our website. There are three main areas that we want action on. Firstly, we have restated our calls for a proper review of the business rates system. Revised rates bills are still being issued to retailers that are eligible for relief, the online appeals system is essentially broken and hopes of fundamental reform have been kicked into the long grass.

Merril Boulton: editor

Editor

David Charman: Parkfoot Garage

So now we know that our beloved petrol stations have an end date, or do they? I have been around this industry all my life, man and boy, and during that time I have witnessed some huge changes in our industry. Back in the early 1970s, I would have been legally able to serve customers before I was tall enough to even reach the till. Most customers bought £1-worth, which was 4.3 gallons (just under 20 litres). The first huge investment was moving customers to 'self-service' and then to buying in litres.

Tracy West: Shop Talk

As an old bird, technology or rather what it can do can baffle my brain. However, even I am aware of the power of social media. And, if you've not yet embraced Facebook, Instagram or Twitter then Halloween gives you the perfect opportunity.

Electric revolution: Ramsay MacDonald

The demise of the combustion engine, signalled by recent announcements from almost all of the major car manufacturers, means in no uncertain terms that electric is the fuel front runner for the next generation of passenger cars. This creates a complex set of challenges but also exciting opportunities, both for the fuel suppliers such as Certas Energy and the UK's forecourt retailers. Other fuels will have their place, particularly with regards to HGV traffic going forward, but the car manufacturers seem to have made up their mind that electric, either hybrid or exclusively, is the fuel they are backing for passenger cars.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

Hurricane Harvey may have poured out its record-breaking deluge 7,500km from here, but it will dominate fuel prices in the UK this month.

Brian Madderson: PRA chairman

The most striking announcement of the summer was from Michael Gove on DEFRA's policy on Clean Air. Conventional petrol and diesel combustion engines are to be banned in new cars from 2040, although hybrids will be permitted. Nevertheless this leaves PRA with much to do to protect and stimulate the interests of our independent forecourt members in the years ahead.

Merril Boulton: editor

Whether it's the right direction or not, we seem to be hurtling towards an electric future as far as automotive transport is concerned, and we at Forecourt Trader will, as always, endeavour to keep you informed of all the latest developments hence the particular focus on the subject in this issue.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

How times change. When I was growing up, you only got one type of milk and that came from a cow. Today you can get goats' milk, almond milk, cashew milk, soya milk you name it and it seems you can milk it.

Ray Blake: technical manager PRA

The latest Petroleum Regulations came into force from October 1, 2014 and allowed for a transitional period of three years for the Petroleum Licences that were in force at the time, to be converted by the Petroleum Enforcing Authorities (PEAs) into Petroleum Storage Certificates (PSCs). The three years have nearly passed, and by September 1, 2017, all petrol filling stations should have been issued with a PSC. There are some people within the industry that haven't grasped the significance of the change even though PEAs should have sent letters and guidance explaining the changes at the time when the licence was due to expire.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

Since I last wrote this column, the UK's General Election was held and the Queen's Speech, on June 21, set out the government's programme for the period between 2017 and 2019 and certainly life hasn't got any less complex!

Merril Boulton: editor

Calm down everyone I think! From the alarming headlines that preceded the government's announcement last month on tackling air pollution to the more considered comment released by UKPIA's director general, Chris Hunt (see News Extra on page 10), there were was a lot of shock and bewilderment in between.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

Crude futures prices fell below $45/bl at one point in June for the first time since November, as demand growth has been slow. UK retail prices are following with their usual lag. In a sign that rebalancing the market is proving harder than first thought, Opec members are starting to talk about possible deeper cuts.

James Lowman: ACS chief executive

After such an unexpected (for most) General Election result, it's no surprise that Theresa May followed up with a scaled-down Queen's Speech.  But within the speech, there was still one important piece of legislation mentioned that will have direct implications for the forecourt sector. That was the Automated and Electric Vehicles (AEV) Bill. One of the consequences of the outcome of the General Election was that many of the Bills that were in progress during the previous parliament had to either be reintroduced or scrapped altogether. The AEV Bill is an example of the former, essentially consisting of a copy and paste of the Vehicle Technology Aviation Bill (VTAB) that had reached Committee Stage in the House of Commons before the election.

Merril Boulton: editor

The drive towards a growing UK car parc of electric vehicles is gathering momentum by the day, particularly with last month's Queen's Speech in which the government reinforced its determination to develop the electric and hydrogen-powered vehicle sector (see News Extra, page 10).

David Charman: chairman CWA

Our industry is facing cost increases on an unprecedented scale. Firstly, the living wage increase has impacted us all. And this challenge, I believe, is by far and away the biggest we will face in the coming years. But hot on its heels is the huge business rates increase that many of us will have to pay.

Tracy West: Shop Talk

Most independent businesses trade on their personal service knowing their regular customers, chatting to them and generally keeping them happy. But what about recommendations? This is something I think more independents should do more of.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

On May 26, Opec and 10 non-Opec countries decided to extend their production restraint for a further nine months to the end of March 2018. But the battle between producers wanting to increase prices and those fighting for market share continues, and weak prices and large swings betray the market's uncertainty over who will set the price in the future.

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

As I write this, if the pollsters are correct, the 'blues' will continue to form the government. Mrs May has run her campaign on the mantra of 'strong and stable' leadership but, when back in office, will she take the opportunity to change her Cabinet? We have already had rapid personnel changes over recent years and there have even been changes to entire departments with the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) being subsumed into the revamped Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) only last year.

Merril Boulton: editor

There's been a lot of worrying stuff in the news recently and I'm not talking about the campaign for the General Election, which will be done and dusted by the time anyone reads this. Whatever your persuasion we will, of course, have to make the best of the outcome, but at least we won't have to bear the ugly sight of potential candidates and audiences catfighting on the TV any more.

Ray Blake: technical manager PRA

Before joining the Petrol Retailers Association, I spent 35 years ensuring the safety of petrol filling stations within London. During this time, I also implemented and managed 10 Primary Authority Partnerships (PAPs) that had influence over 25% of UK petrol filling stations. Having done this, I knew the benefit of providing such a service to members of the PRA.

Tracy West: Shop Talk

At first glance, I thought the news that most people thought the forthcoming sugar tax on soft drinks also applied to sweets, chocolate, biscuits and cakes was quite shocking. What is more, the Nielsen survey from which the news originated found that 28% of people didn't think it applied to soft drinks. But then I thought about it a bit more and concluded: 'No, not really'. I think that's because things like this are the talk of the industry but the powers that be forget (intentionally or otherwise) to tell the end user ie the consumer. When they changed the legal age for buying cigarettes a few years ago (from 16 to 18) who told the 16- and 17-year-olds? The poor old retailer and their shop staff.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

The international crude and petrol markets that underlie fuel prices in UK forecourts are tightening for separate reasons, keeping prices at the pump well supported.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

Well, here we go again! The Prime Minister has fired the starting gun for a General Election, the sound of which has startled many people. It would seem that we have had an overabundance of politics over the past 18 months, what with the Labour party trying to sort itself out, the whole Brexit campaign resulting in the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigning in July 2016 and Theresa May stepping up to the plate. There have also been local government elections and the US Presidential race that seemed to go on forever, all of which has resulted in endless media coverage and comment no wonder we are suffering from 'political brain fade'!

Merril Boulton: editor

Tracy West: Shop Talk

Everyone knows cigarettes are expensive but I was shocked when I recently bought 20 Embassy for Mr West. They cost £9.99. Wow! And those 20 won't even last him one day.

Kevin Eastwood: Executive director, BOSS

Any losses from forecourt crime are unacceptable. We fully understand the pressure this type of crime places on retailers, police and government agencies but by developing new and improved ways of working between police and retailers we will reduce losses and increase recovery rates.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

Global crude oil prices are driving fuel prices at the pump, and all eyes are on Opec's attempts to raise them. There are early signs that production cuts are beginning to bite, but producers are facing an uphill struggle.

James Lowman: chief executive, ACS

Since the publication of the revised business rate valuations late last year, a range of business groups including ACS have been campaigning to ensure that those hardest hit by the revaluation will be given appropriate relief, and that beyond the revaluation, the rating system will be reviewed so that everyone pays their fair share. This inequity in the rating system was highlighted when it was revealed that while petrol forecourts are seeing their bills rise, some of the biggest internet distribution warehouses are set to see a fall in their rateable values.

Merril Boulton: editor

Welcome to our new-look Forecourt Trader. Yes, we've had a bit of a refresh, but it's still the same great mix of news, views and retail insight that, according to our latest research, makes Forecourt Trader still your number one trade mag. New additions to look out for include a regular column from Charlotte Blum, analysis editor of Argus Media, who will be giving a steer on oil price movements and how they might impact on prices at the pump.

Tracy West: Shop Talk

Sunday March 26 is Mother's Day or Mothering Sunday. I always take my mum out for Sunday lunch but many families celebrate by eating in, together at home.

Merril Boulton: editor

The frustration is palpable as the realisation of the impact of changes to business rates being implemented in April is realised in companies big and small across the nation. Media headlines have yelled at every opportunity about the smaller retailers that appear to be being taxed out of business.

  • Weekly
    Retail
  • Weekly
    wholesale
  • Daily
    Average
Weekly retail fuel prices: 15 January 2018
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East124.9460.90131.85122.27
East Midlands124.34132.31121.54
London125.0662.90132.42122.10
North East123.94133.63121.07
North West124.1658.50132.51121.18
Northern Ireland123.4169.90128.40120.85
Scotland124.5774.90130.88121.33
South East125.1561.40132.52122.48
South West124.73130.24121.91
Wales124.44128.57121.19
West Midlands123.7465.23132.27121.20
Yorkshire & Humber123.9161.90132.74121.12

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Are you feeling positive about the opportunities for growing your business in 2018?