The pace of acquisition and change in the forecourt sector is not expected to slacken in 2019 despite the acquisition of MRH by MFG.

Retailers and oil companies have told Forecourt Trader they are all looking to grow their businesses in 2019, as reported in News Extra in the latest edition of the magazine.

The previously acquisitive MFG may have to concentrate on integrating MRH into its business, but other groups, such as MPK and Ascona Group, appear to have funds and are keen to expand. Oil companies are also becoming increasingly active in the market. Certas Energy is building up its estate, and Harvest is building a new brand with Harvest Retail after the acquisition of HKS. Phillips 66 sprang a surprise by snapping up NJB, and then indicating it would consider further acquisitions, and Essar will be assessing any opportunities in the market.

Richard Billington, retail director of Certas Energy, said: “Our investment in all aspects of the Gulf brand, to protect and grow the revenues of our dealers, will continue through 2019 and we anticipate further network expansion as we unveil a range of exciting initiatives over the coming months. Based on feedback from the independent sector, we are adding real substance and innovation to our offering, allowing us to further differentiate Gulf from its competitors.”

Meanwhile, Bernie Williamson, Shell UK’s retail general manager, believes the year ahead will see great opportunities for retailers as the face of the UK forecourt is reshaped: “Already, shoppers are seeing beyond the traditional view of a service station, which allows us to keep growing our convenience offering. At the same time, this challenges us to continue innovating and ensure we really are helping our customers to save time in their busy lives. Consumer demands are changing quickly and it’s up to forecourt retailers like Shell to continually develop new ways to meet their needs – not just the needs they have today but the ones they’re likely to have in the future. Already, one in every three transactions at our service stations doesn’t include a fuel purchase at all. For 2019, we are ideally positioned to bring new and innovative convenience solutions to our customers.”

“Trying to find the next site,” is the big issue for Refuel & Go managing director, Andrew MacDonald. He said: “We operate in the most competitive area – the South East – where property is at a premium. It’s very difficult, but we’re highly acquisitive and looking to develop the estate where possible. Otherwise in terms of the year ahead, we’re very positive. Margins are incredibly good. There are lots of changes ahead, not just in the industry and we’re waiting to see how all that settles down. But for now we’re thoroughly engaged in fuel retailing, enjoying it, and hoping to push on.”