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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.

David Charman: chairman CWA

Our industry has once again moved into a whole new era, with Tesco taking ownership of Booker and its forecourt brands and the demonisation of diesel as a road fuel.

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

The anti-diesel bandwagon is rolling. It was tax incentives in 2001 that encouraged both private drivers and businesses to buy diesel engine cars. The justification related to climate change and lower carbon dioxide emissions. The issues of toxic nitrogen oxide and higher levels of particulate matter were known but downplayed. From just 10% of new car registrations in 2000, sales accelerated rapidly such that the car parc was over 50% diesel by 2010. This growth continued and by mid-2015 retail sales of diesel overtook petrol for the first time.

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.

Merril Boulton: editor

The momentum around automotive fuels, and what kind of motor vehicles we'll be driving in the future seems to be really building into something more tangible than previously seen. Last month came the news that a global initiative to drive use of hydrogen (see News page 4), had been agreed at the World Economic Forum in Davos. There has been much talk about the merits of hydrogen as an energy resource for a long time, but there have always been many technical issues to be resolved. Clearly much progress in hydrogen and fuel-cell technology is being made, to the point that a group of energy, transport and industry companies aka 'the Hydrogen Council' have pledged to put hydrogen among the key solutions of the energy transition.

Tracy West: Shop Talk

I've written about this before and I'm sure I'll write about it again. It's to do with today's all-singing, all-dancing service stations. It's not a complaint: I love them. I wish I had more near where I live or at least one decent one near where I live.

Peter Harding: business development director Htec

Just take a look at any magazine or web page and ask yourself what do you see: home automation. There are many, many devices to control home peripherals as well as home applications such as cameras and recording devices, smoke and humidity detectors. But what's new in the forecourt retail world of automation? What might be seen this year in our business? The showcase, as ever, will be the National Convenience Show and The Forecourt Show, at the NEC from April 24-26.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

'May you live in interesting times' is actually purported to be a Chinese curse 2016 was certainly interesting for society in general and our industry in particular. Whether it was cursed remains to be seen.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

Happy New Year to you all. Let's hope it's going to be a good one. After all the surprises of 2016, you can't help but wonder what's in store and I'm going to take that quite literally and have a look at the new products we might get to see in 2017.

Kevin Eastwood: executive director BOSS

Police forces across the country are under pressure and forecourt retailers have a responsibility to help the police to use their limited resources effectively.

James Lowman: ACS chief executive

As we build up to the new financial year starting in April when businesses in England and Wales will start paying rates based on the latest revaluation, there's been a lot in the papers about business rates. While a lot of the media coverage talks about the pounds and pence increases, the underlying issue remains that two years ago, the government committed to undertaking a fundamental review of business rates and we're yet to see a clear conclusion to it.

Merril Boulton: editor

Happy New Year to you all I hope trading was bouyant over the festive season. But while I had intended to continue in positive fashion, I am sorry to hear that it wasn't a very good start to the New Year for Top 50 Indie, High Noon Stores, which went into administration on December 30 (see News page 4). Scant information is currently available, but I hope the difficulties can be resolved. If not, it would be the first Top 50 Indie to hit the buffers since 2012, when Scottish independent Calanike which had 19 sites ceased trading.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 20 November 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East123.5862.15130.21121.10
East Midlands123.21131.97120.77
London123.5556.90131.47121.21
North East122.7764.90132.16120.46
North West123.1057.80131.29120.64
Northern Ireland121.8564.20125.57120.27
Scotland123.3352.20129.79120.83
South East123.79131.06121.50
South West123.42130.49121.01
Wales123.15129.94120.50
West Midlands122.8761.90132.62120.73
Yorkshire & Humber122.9956.90131.53120.82

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