The forecourt market looks set for a rewarding year in 2004, according to a survey by financial publishers Plimsoll. Sales are expected to increase an average of one per cent with profit margins remaining low but steady at one per cent.

The survey found three distinct views on the New Year – 22 per cent of the 861 companies surveyed showed unprecedented confidence ; 56 per cent would be in transition; and 22 per cent predicted 2004 as a difficult year.

David Pattison, senior analyst at Plimsoll, said: “These findings prove how industry averages disguise the reality of what is going on in the market and how easy it is to misread it. To see the facts you should look at the companies individually.”