Aside from all the crashing and banging going on in the financial markets around the world, this has been a pretty significant month for UK petrol retailers too. By all accounts they have discovered their power as a collective force. Never before have so many retailers been galvanised into pulling together in one direction to such effect. The ashen faces triggered by BP’s stand-off with Arval have now visibly relaxed into relieved - if wary - smiles.
BP and its dealers can now move aside and watch how the rest of the industry tackles the card charge problem, although none will have quite the bargaining power. So should this have been an issue tackled by the whole of the industry together? Because of the nature of the business, it was never going to be. But aren’t there other situations where retailers stand to lose lots of money and could gain by working together?
There are issues over the sale of tobacco and alcohol, for example, that could seriously damage forecourt shop income - retailers can and should be in dialogue with their local MPs/government organisations to make their opinions heard.
There is also the issue of car washing which represents a significant income for many retailers - one that is being slowly eroded by unfair practices and ignorance. Here is an opportunity for more collective participation, so I urge people to get behind David Charman and the newly created Car Wash Association. Don’t leave it to a few dedicated souls to do all the hard work.
Talking of hard work, congratulations to the very worthy winners of this year’s awards, especially Philip and Lesley Tout.