Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community
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Merril Boulton: editor

It's not so long ago that you would have recoiled to think that supermarkets and independent retailers could work together on any kind of project, the former having kicked the 'proverbials' out of the latters' livelihoods for many years. Now we have two Top 50 groups Rontec and MFG (see News page 5) working with Morrisons in store trials (not to mention Euro Garages and Sainsbury's). Do you think they ever dare to mention fuel prices?

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

For several months, the PRA has been lobbying ministers to introduce a fuel duty cut with 3ppl recommended for both grades. The Chancellor invited PRA earlier this month to meet senior officials at HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs to present their case.

David Charman: chairman CWA

When I look back over the past 20 years trading as a convenience petrol retailer, the change has been enormous. At the start when the oil company logo was above the door, we were viewed with the suspicion that everything we sold would somehow be smeared with oil or smell of petrol. Nowadays, the retail excellence from all sites really sets the standard of convenience retail in the UK. Over 50% of sites now boast a symbol brand above the door. There were always good sites throughout that time and the difficulty now is that most sites are great sites.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

I must say that I'm feeling a little bit smug and that's because all of my Christmas shopping is virtually done.

Merril Boulton: What a shocker

Well that was a bit of a shocker the government consulting on plans to force larger service stations, supermarket forecourts and motorway service areas to provide hydrogen refuelling facilities and charging points for electric vehicles (see News Extra on page 10). The measures are included in a consultation document for the Modern Transport Bill, due in Parliament next year, and interested parties only have until November 23 to submit their views.

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

As we move toward Autumn, Brexit and its implications are becoming a reality, at least in terms of the 'pre-fight build-up'. Our Prime Minister, Theresa May, has insisted "Brexit means Brexit" and "the decision of the British public will be respected".

Peter Harding: business development director HTEC

This past couple of months have seen a new iPhone (the 7), new IOS 10 and not much else. IOS 10 is said to provide much better connection (untested by me) for home connectable appliances there is even a home app button on the main screen.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

The time when we used to say to each other 'There are only so many shopping days until Christmas' are rather redundant as shopping is more or less a 24/7 activity thanks to the internet. There's no doubt that the internet, as well as all of the discounters, are taking a big chunk of Christmas cash but luckily there seems to be quite a lot of that cash to go round.

Merril Boulton: Wow what a night!

Wow what a night! Many congratulations to Patrick Sewell and his team at Sewell on the go South Cave for becoming our latest Forecourt Trader of the Year winner. It's a second time around for him he last won in 2009.

Kevin Eastwood: BOSS executive director

Technology plays a big part in our campaign to reduce forecourt crime by speeding up communications and the processing of large amounts of information. More efficient ways of working are absolutely necessary when you consider that approximately 900,000 times a year drivers either drive-off from a forecourt without paying for fuel or they draw fuel and then claim that they have no means to pay and don't return to pay. It's a problem that costs forecourt retailers on average £3,000 every year.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

I have a confession I love Nutella. I have to avoid buying it because I can eat so much of it. A while back I bought the teensiest of jars the glass one with the white lid and sat and ate it all with a teaspoon. Then, feeling more than a little guilty, studied the jar and discovered that I had just consumed 15 servings but boy was it good. I love the Nutella&Go! product but obviously the bread sticks-to-spread ratio is not right for me.

Merril Boulton: Maintaining standards

I hope you've all had a good summer - yes it eventually arrived, encouraging people to get out and about and make the most of the warm temperatures by driving to the beach, shopping for barbecues, or generally travelling around the country as they took in the sights on their 'staycations' 

Brian Madderson: chairman PRA

Post-Brexit there's been understandable concern that the predicted drop in the value of sterling versus the US dollar would immediately force Platts' wholesale costs upwards. While there has been devaluation of sterling, the pessimists in the City predicting lows of $1.20 or even $1.10 have so far proved well wide of the mark. Instead we have seen a fall of around 10%, from $1.46 down to $1.32. This level has now remained fairly constant since the referendum decision.

David Charman: chairman CWA

Most people would agree that the changing face of UK car washing over the past decade or so has been caused by the influx of migrants from the EU the best estimates put the figure at 2.2 million.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

I hope you've had a good summer and your fair share of the gorgeous weather.

Merril Boulton: Duty-bound

Something of a blow for those pursuing the case for duty deferment, is last month's overturning of a landmark tax verdict that could have brought a significant cashflow boost to many retailers (see News page 4, and News Extra, page 10).

Chris Hunt: UKPIA director general

The implications and effects of the nation's decision to leave the European Union will take some time to unravel, and for the UK's negotiations over 'Brexit' to begin.

Peter Harding: business development director Htec

This month I'd like to cover self checkouts. There are basically three types. Card only, as the name suggests, is a unit that only accepts debit and credit cards. These units can be pole-mounted or shelf-mounted. They're a much lower cost unit than a traditional self checkout as seen in the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury's.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

A colleague asked me the other day if I was some sort of brand ambassador for Coke. His reasoning was my knowledge of the brand and the different sub-brands. Unfortunately, I'm not, but I'm a massive Diet Coke fan and drink far too much of the lovely bubbly stuff. As I write this, I have a fridge filled with cans under my desk.

Merril Boulton - editor: Never a truer phrase

Whoever said a week is a long time in politics (prime minister Harold Wilson in 1964 apparently), could not have coined a more apt phrase for what's happened in the past seven days (writing on July 1). Chaos and skullduggery appears to be the order of the day as the so-called ruling classes are too busy indulging in a right old battle of their own, to actually rule the country. And those that put them there us can only look on in sheer horror and amazement. Just who are these people with their ideologies, giant egos and personal agendas, and will we ever believe what any of them say again? It's like one of the more outrageous episodes of Yes, Prime Minister. But 'twas ever thus.

James Lowman: ACS chief executive

Over recent years, the forecourt and convenience sectors have been merging closer together, with more stores now considering themselves to be 'convenience plus fuel' rather than primarily traditional fuel retailers. This has led to the emergence of hundreds of fantastic new store formats that often lead the rest of the convenience sector in growing categories like food to-go, in-store bakeries and top quality coffee. As a result, the forecourt convenience sector (without including the value of fuel sales) is now worth over £4bn to the UK economy. For the first time this year, we have produced a forecourt report looking specifically at the makeup of these stores.

Kevin Eastwood: executive director BOSS

We now know where we stand with Europe, while the performance of the home nations in the Euro football championship has kept us all on a knife edge. And we're delighted to have recovered a massive £500,000 for forecourt retailers during the first six months of 2016.

Shop Talk: Tracy West

I have a confession. Despite being a middle-aged woman, I really like McCoy's. I know they're principally aimed at men but just as I love action films made for men, so do I like McCoy's. It's the flavours they're so strong. No subtle 'hints of', just full-on flavour. That said, I was a bit skeptical when the launch of McCoy's Thick Cut was announced. Why mess with something that works so well, I thought. However, since trying the BBQ Chicken flavour, I've realised I'm wrong and am now a Thick Cut convert.

Merril Boulton: Let's focus on the certainties

The EU referendum vote looms large this month, and despite all the talk, nobody seems any the wiser about the outcome. Even the forecourt sector seems to be as evenly divided and undecided on the matter as the rest of the nation (see News Extra page 10). But one thing is for sure, this time next month it will be behind us.

Brian Madderson - chairman PRA

As I travel around the UK meeting and talking to independent forecourt retailers, I have been struck by their enthusiasm to embrace the shopping revolution which has seen increasing demand for 'top-up' visits to good, local convenience stores. Fortunately this enthusiasm has been matched by symbol groups willing to improve their offer.

David Charman - chairman CWA

Over the past decade, the Car Wash Association has made huge inroads into regulating the hand washes that continue to blight our environment, fail to contribute to the country and bring car washing into disrepute. While there have been some success stories, generally the lack of regulatory pressure has allowed huge growth.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

I love a limited edition and they always catch my eye in the shops. But I have to wonder how you retailers make room for them. If they're small and a real impulse buy, then they might fit by the till, but if they aren't you've got to find space for them elsewhere, and given the number of limited editions available now, that could be a problem.

Merril Boulton: Booker begins to deliver

When Booker acquired Musgrave Retail Partners GB last summer, it said it had a track record of turning around 'challenged businesses'. Its extremely accomplished CEO Charles Wilson said Booker, Londis and Budgens were joining forces to help independent retailers prosper.

Chris Hunt - UKPIA director general

The competitiveness of oil refining and other energy intensive industries is under threat. The current crisis facing UK steelmaking is symptomatic of a much wider malaise, mirrored across the whole major industrial manufacturing infrastructure. In exploring the challenges facing oil refining and wider industry in the UK, UKPIA has produced a report entitled Crisis What Crisis? This communication not only provides a wide-angle overview of why the manufacturing industry matters but, through a refining sector case study, sets out the pressures undermining its competitiveness. In summary, the report shows that our energy intensive industries, such as refining, play a significant role in the economy but are at a critical stage and face a number of significant challenges, the outcome of which will have a profound impact on long-term economic growth and the nation's resilience.

Peter Harding - retail consultant

We all understand standards within the technological arena change, sometimes so quickly that it is difficult to keep pace. This is a pre-warning that things may again be set to change.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

The days of heading to the supermarket are over for some Brits, as they trade trolleys for home delivery. That was the opening sentence on a press release from Mintel about its online shopping report.

Merril Boulton: Search starts here for this year's best retailers

So oil prices are slowly rising again currency fluctuations and an anticipated production freeze contributing to the joyfully complex formula that dictates what motorists pay at the pump. Like sailing away from a sunny holiday destination, we seem to be leaving the £1-a-litre prices behind shame, I quite liked matching up the pounds with the litres!

James Lowman - ACS chief executive

The March 2016 Budget is likely to be remembered by the general public for what ended up not happening, notably the review of benefits to the disabled. It may also be remembered for the announcement of the levy on companies selling sugary drinks.

Brian Madderson - chairman PRA

I would not place a bet on the next movement of Brent Crude having listened to many hours of detailed presentations from some of the most experienced analysts in the industry during International Petroleum Week there are just too many variables. What is irrefutable is that OECD stocks have risen by 15% to more than 3bn barrels since early 2014 producing a record overhang.

David Charman - chairman CWA

The 2016 rates valuation is something the whole industry is worried about, but not, it seems, the hand car washers. Yet again so many of them will not be listed or if they are, no proper investigation will have taken place to ensure that they pay their correct rates. It's terribly frustrating as the CWA has provided much of the data necessary for the job to be done properly.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

I love chocolate as much as the next person actually probably more so, and my absolute favourite is Cadbury Dairy Milk. However, I am not a big fan of what they are doing to it ie launching more and more obscure varieties. They must have done their research but even so... First up, let's look at Medley, two 93g bars which say on the wrapper 'A delightful Medley of' and that's either dark chocolate chips, biscuit and fudge pieces or dark chocolate chips, carmelised hazelnuts and raspberry pieces.

Merril Boulton:Top 50 - a decade on

Another successful Top 50 Indies dinner took place last month, and as we reach a milestone 10 years of the report, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the launch of the listing, which was first published in 2006.

Merril Boulton: MRH - from bust to boom

Big news that the owners of MRH have sold the business to US private equity company Lone Star (see News page 4).

Peter Harding - retail consultant

This year will see many changes in the provision of point-of-sale systems in the UK. Torex/Micros/Oracle seems to have passed the mantle for sales to other parties and several have taken partnerships with Oracle for the supply of systems at various different levels. But a word of caution when seeking new systems this year always ensure that the system you are being sold actually exists and is not just a plan in someone's mind.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

Our esteemed editor Merril Boulton loves a Sherbet Lemon and Bassett's are her favourite, so she was delighted with the news that brand owner Mondelez is promoting 'adult candy' via a major relaunch. She's hoping her favourites will then be more widely available. Whenever I see them in a shop, I do buy her some (what a creep, I hear you say) and typically they are found in forecourt stores, so that's good for business.

Merril Boulton: Ignorance is key for Fair Fuel campaign

Happy New Year to you all. Made me smile to see the supermarkets getting a slating over their pricing strategies for a change, instead of always the traditional fuel retailing fraternity.

James Lowman - ACS chief executive

In the summer of 2015, ACS launched one of its biggest ever campaigns in opposition to changes to Sunday Trading regulations announced by the Chancellor in his July Budget. We lobbied hard to ensure that the issue was front-of-mind for MPs, and as a result of the campaigning work, a sizeable group of Conservative MPs and the Scottish National Party publicly stated that they would vote against a change in the rules.

Kevin Eastwood - Executive director BOSS

The police and other law enforcement bodies face continuing pressure to prioritise resources in the face of austerity measures. BOSS has been working hard to maintain and build on existing relationships to ensure maximum benefit for members, recognising that it's important to do more than just report a crime. This has led to the recovery of more than £2m for members, together with positive outcomes and prosecution of numerous persistent offenders.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

Happy New Year to you all. Can you believe that we've already had 15 years of the 21st century? Every time I think of the 21st century, I'm transported back to my school days when we all imagined that by now, some of us would be living on the moon. Of course, it's not happened yet, but technology does evolve in leaps and bounds, not least payment technology.

Brian Madderson - chairman RMIP

This has been a turbulent and exciting year for petrol retailers with the independent sector powering ahead to represent nearly 70% of all UK forecourts. The decision by the remaining oil majors to continue divesting their retail assets has enabled a few of the larger independent groups to grow quickly and impressively, but some smaller multi-site operators have also been on the acquisition trail. This is a refreshing change from the years of attrition caused by the rise and rise of the big four supermarkets which has seen over 4,000 small, often family run, filling stations wiped out since 2001.

Chris Hunt - UKPIA director general

Petroleum products are an essential energy resource and they will continue to be for years to come. Our sector produces these vital products and confidence in the safety of our operations is paramount. Our industry does involve potential risks that are greater than those in many other sectors and for this month's column I want to focus on safety.

Peter Harding - retail consultant

The latest Apple event came and went launching the new Iphone 6s, new Apple TV new ios 9 and OSx El Capitan and, of course, the Ipad Pro. Having done some work with CBE on the mobile solution, I was keen to see what the Ipad Pro brought to the table.

Shop Talk - Tracy West

he news that Christmas will be cheaper for consumers this year means only one thing to retailers fierce competition. A survey for VoucherCodes.co.uk, done by YouGov, found that average household spending on food, presents and decorations would be £796.05 this year. It sounds a lot but it's actually 3% down on last year's spend of £820.60, and the lowest spend since 2012.

James Lowman - ACS chief executive

At the start of September, we launched our fourth annual Local Shop Report and it was great to see so many of you in Manchester to be among the first to get the information.

Kevin Eastwood - Executive director BOSS

At a recent meeting with the Attorney General, the country's senior law officer, BOSS was praised for the work it does in tackling forecourt crime. It was also welcoming to hear from Home Office Minister for Policing, Mike Penning MP, that he's grateful for the positive way that BOSS is working with the Home Office.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 13 November 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East122.9762.90129.22120.30
East Midlands122.51131.19120.13
London123.0159.23131.32120.49
North East122.2163.40130.26120.15
North West122.3953.80130.05119.91
Northern Ireland121.09125.70118.82
Scotland122.68128.95119.79
South East123.2069.90130.92120.88
South West122.77128.85120.30
Wales122.4253.90128.26119.82
West Midlands122.0958.90130.41119.94
Yorkshire & Humber122.3453.70132.45119.99

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