Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community

Merril Boulton: editor

So it's already March and at the end of this month, who knows what will have happened re what's become the dreaded Brexit situation. But one thing is for certain, and that is the success of the Top 50 Indies, which is clear to see in our latest report published in February (see News Extra, page 10). It sums up another intriguing year, in which, following an impressive run of 13 years at the top for MRH, there is a new number one MFG which, with an incredible 925 sites is twice the size of the next group on the list the EG Group.

The number of sites within the Top 50 Indies community continues to grow by around 130 sites in the past year and now numbers 2,410, up from last year's 2,276, and representing nearly 29% of the overall market. There has been no shortage of activity in terms of buying and selling, and while property prices softened last year following the MFG/MRH deal, they did not fall in the way many in the market predicted, and the demand for sites remains extremely high, according to a recent report by Christie & Co.

With such fierce competition for existing forecourt businesses, a record number of Top 50 Indies are looking to build new-to-industry sites as a way of expanding their businesses. The report also reveals no end of plans for development of shops and various services, but particularly food-to-go and cafe areas great prospects for growth.

Yes, there are uncertainties about future fuels, with diesel sales falling away and petrol sales rising for the first time in years; and the potential advent of an electric vehicle future (see Electric Vehicle Charging, p29). But forecourt retailers appear to be taking all this in their stride, weighing up the options to maximise future opportunities. They are canny and stoic entrepreneurs who have had to continually evolve and reinvent themselves over many years. There will always be challenges, but the mood of the moment with all this activity is that there is great confidence in the future of the sector.

On that positive note, for a wealth of ideas, business and networking opportunities, The Forecourt Show is being held at the NEC on April 8-10. Look forward to seeing you there!

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As the smaller/family owned independent forecourt businesses continue to be acquired by the big operators, do you think now could be the right time for you to sell up?