Record pump prices between April and June helped UK retail petrol sales fall 77% faster than in the first three months of this year, new research from the AA reveals.
Petrol sales that had fallen 186.5m litres (-3.9%) in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2010, crashed a further 330.7m (-6.6%) litres during the second quarter.
Between January and June this year, new government figures show that 1.7bn fewer litres of petrol and diesel were sold at UK petrol stations than in the first half of 2008 – just before the credit crunch. The huge drop in sales, due in part to record fuel prices in May (petrol 137.43p a litre, diesel 143.04), has deprived the Treasury of £985m in fuel duty over the half year.
Between January and June this year, petrol prices averaged 133.13p a litre, up 16.45p (116.68) on the same period in 2010 and 24.13p (109) higher than in 2008. AA/Populus surveys of the impact of high fuel prices on AA members show that, in April 2008, 64% of them were cutting back on car use, other non-fuel spending or both. This May, that had climbed to 76%.
Diesel retail sales in the first half of 2011 have remained more resilient, down 31.2m litres (-0.4%) compared to the six months of 2008. However, commercial diesel sales during the first six months have fallen 2.1% compared to the same period last year and are down 3.2% on 2008 levels.
Supermarkets have coped better with record pump prices, with petrol sales up 0.4% and diesel up 11.8% from April to June. Over the same period, non-supermarket retailers have seen petrol sales fall 11.2% but diesel volumes rise 2.0%. The Co-op’s introduction of a fuel voucher offering a 5p saving on fuel from a £30 spend in store shook up other fuel voucher offerings that tended to rely on a 5p saving from a £50 spend. Alongside Asda’s significantly lower pump price policy, a fuel voucher war may have paid off for the supermarkets.
Edmund King, the AA’s president, said: “There is no downplaying the impact of record fuel prices on family’s and other people’s lives. A 1.7bn-litre drop in petrol sales says just one thing – too many car owners cannot afford these record prices and are losing mobility as a consequence.
“With petrol and diesel costing around 20p a litre more than a year ago, the Treasury faces an even bigger black hole opening up in its fuel duty receipts if the 3.02p-a-litre increase in fuel duty goes ahead next January. Oil and pump prices may be falling at the moment, but a return of confidence in the stock market will be reflected in yet another hike in commodity prices, as has been the case throughout this summer.”