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Action on slavery

As many forecourt owners with car wash facilities know to their cost, unscrupulous hand car washes (HCWs), with no regard for labour laws or environmental regulations, can steal many of their customers away by undercutting legitimate businesses. Initially, the authorities seemed reluctant to tackle this scourge, but after intense lobbying by the PRA, and the realisation that HCWs are often involved in human trafficking and slavery, people at the very top are demanding action.

Taking the long view

The government's long-awaited plan to tackle air pollution was always going to be controversial, after the High Court had dismissed earlier proposals as not good enough, and set a deadline of July 31 for it to come up with something better. But the media storm whipped up by its UK Plan for Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Levels had little to do with its contents, and instead focused on something that will not take effect for 23 years.

Who foots the Bill?

The government's vision for the future of the road travel, which was outlined in the Queen's Speech, contained both reassurance and potential threats for the forecourt sector. The good news is that the government is clearly confident about the future of the forecourt sector, as it features in a pivotal role in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. The threat is posed by the major changes the government is planning to introduce in its determination to develop the electric and hydrogen-powered sector, and questions over who is going to pay for them.

Back to the future

This time last year we were coming to the end of a major restructuring of the industry, as private equity funding was driving the big dealer groups to acquire a large number of sites being sold off by the oil companies. This activity has slowed down over the past year and the UK Fuel Market 2017 vs 2016 on the right shows how the sector has returned to familiar trends.

Safety first

The terrorist attacks at the Manchester Arena and on London Bridge mean security is top of the agenda for many companies, and an incident in Manchester demonstrates why the forecourt sector needs to be vigilant. A Texaco petrol station in the city found itself on the front line in the fight against terrorism when armed police swooped on a customer and briefly closed down the site.

Clearing the air

After hordes of headlines suggesting owners of diesel cars were about to be clobbered with huge pollution charges, there were fears that the surge in demand for diesel would suddenly shudder into reverse, but new proposals from the government have eased some of the anxiety at least temporarily.

Diesel dilemma

Diesel has grown to dominate the road fuels market in the UK, driven by government tax incentives for car drivers. In 2001, with the government seeking to reduce CO2 emissions, the greater efficiency of diesel engines compared with petrol made it the obvious choice, and tax rates were adjusted accordingly.

Building growth

The seemingly inexorable rise in the number of sites run by the Top 50 Indies continued last year, but the increase of 99 to 2,222 is much lower than the 300-plus increases of the two previous years.

Tapping into key trends

The internet has now been widely available for so long that many consumers have grown up with it, and as it continues to develop and affect more areas of everyone's lives it is helping to shape trends in shopper behaviour in the convenience sector. HIM Research & Consulting has been studying these developments in consumer activity and has identified three key trends which could influence future behaviour of shoppers at forecourt shops: the casual connoisseur, the modern mindset; and fast consumption.

Investing in growth

Many dealers continued adding to their estates in 2016, driving up demand, and therefore the value of sites fuelling continued optimism and investment in the fuel retailing sector.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 20 January 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East133.4167.40141.10128.52
East Midlands132.93141.67128.44
London133.0565.90142.23128.80
North East131.55139.57126.67
North West132.1066.90140.54127.58
Northern Ireland129.82134.61125.46
Scotland132.65139.08127.50
South East133.80141.93129.03
South West132.9567.90139.13128.12
Wales132.1064.90137.03127.13
West Midlands132.7866.57142.07128.26
Yorkshire & Humber131.9963.90141.14127.34

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