Dealers will continue to grow in size, and Esso is keen to work with them to ensure “we are all here to stay”, stressed Karen Dickens, Esso’s executive director, fuels marketing UK & Ireland, in her opening address at the Top Indies dinner in Birmingham last night.

She told the elite gathering - which included representatives from the biggest independent petrol

retailing groups in the UK - that oil was here to stay as a key transportation fuel, and that through to 2030 about 80% of the world’s energy needs would continue to be met by fossil fuels.

“The other energy sources will be wind and solar, which are projected to grow rapidly," she said. “But by 2030 they will still only account for about 1% of global energy demand.”

Dickens said the fuel retail market would continue to be an important segment in the UK despite the challenges and the need to evolve to meet the pressures of a competitive environment.

“Margins in the retail sector have been in decline for as long as I can remember, but in the past few years we have seen a levelling out and possibly even improvement in margins nationally.”

She stressed that dealers made up a fundamental and key element of the Esso network, as they provided coverage where Esso had none; they also had the ability to deliver bespoke and tailored offerings which the oil company would be unable to provide as effectively.

“We know the challenges facing the industry globally and locally and we know what the consumer wants, but what are the challenges facing dealers that need to be overcome to ensure we are all ‘here to stay’? I believe it is meeting the customers’ fuel expectations; meeting the customers’ convenience store expectations; and managing costs.

“With the right people, the right knowledge, the right technology, the right locations and the right offering, the future looks good for the dealer business. I’m confident that together we can really make a difference and both myself, and my dealer team look forward to working with you both now and in the future. Together we can ensure we are all here to stay.”

The Top Indies dinner celebrates the publication of the Top 50 Indies listing - a league table of the biggest independent petrol retail groups - that was published in the April issue of Forecourt Trader. The event was held during the International Forecourt & Fuel Exhibition and Convenience Retailing Show currently running at the NEC in Birmingham.