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

Brian Madderson: chairman, PRA

There is no doubt that as we head towards Brexit Day on March 29, our politicians and political commentators are ensuring that the outcome continues to be very uncertain. No one can forecast with any real confidence where the country will be in three month's time. This is much the same with the proposed Sainsbury's/Asda tie-up as the Competition & Markets Authority announced a further delay on their findings to April 30. No certainty with this one either!

Business does thrive on certainty so looking ahead through 2019 there may be key issues affecting the UK petrol filling station market which attract some degree of confidence with one's predictions.

Taking fuel, the collapse of the European market for new diesel car registrations, which appears most marked in the UK with trend decline close to 30%, is already having an impact on demand for retail diesel. The heady days of 6%pa growth are gone forever and the current trend is declining towards less than a 1% increase over the previous year. On the other hand, petrol sales buoyed by increasing petrol vehicle +8% and hybrid petrol vehicle sales +22% is reversing the decline of the last 10 years. This should be noted for the outlook for premium fuel sales. It is very unlikely that EVs will impact fossil fuel sales any time soon with new registrations failing to ignite as consumers remain unconvinced by their value.

There is no appetite among the UK motor fuel industry to introduce the higher ethylene E10 petrol with its known performance limitations and (still) relatively high number of non-compliant engines. The government likewise is showing no signs of willingness to mandate the introduction of this new grade.

Market research confirms the growth of the forecourt convenience store albeit at slightly lower levels as the German discounters continue their fast-track, new store opening programmes. Food-to-go is forecast to grow strongly and the automated car wash market is definitely showing welcome signs of revival.

The message is that there are some certain developments which will provide new opportunities in the filling station arena.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 15 April 2019
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East132.7461.80137.06126.04
East Midlands131.9880.90137.50125.32
London132.62139.31126.61
North East130.83137.71124.52
North West131.63135.44124.59
Northern Ireland129.55131.04123.66
Scotland131.9664.90136.81125.08
South East132.9559.90138.51126.32
South West132.2957.90137.05125.42
Wales131.3668.20132.82124.33
West Midlands131.7971.90136.78125.40
Yorkshire & Humber131.32137.91124.87

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Following the response by Sainsbury's and Asda to the CMA's damning provisional findings on their proposed merger, do you agree with the PRA's assessment that their proposed solutions to the concerns could result in hundreds of forecourt closures?