Concern over ’unfair’ or ’predatory’ fuel pricing (see News Extra page 10) continues to haunt the independent fuel retailing network, while the lag on Platts pricing embedded in fuel supply deals is becoming another source of great irritation.
Price lag can work both ways in terms of being favourable to a dealer’s margin or not. But when prices have been moving up and down as quickly as they have, it makes a one-day lag as is becoming increasingly the only offering from oil companies a tough one for traditional retailers. It gives them no time to swallow and mitigate the effect of any sharp fall in prices the day after they’ve just taken a fuel delivery.
The supermarkets one having admitted that fuel is a loss leader, another great source of irritation! could be on seven- or 12-day lags. But anyway their very scale and modus operandi means they appear to have all the advantages. They certainly benefit from the huge publicity they have always managed to generate over their declarations of cheap fuel whether it’s as cheap as they say it’s going to be or not. Perception is all, it seems.
Retailers should certainly do as Andrew Lawrence of Lawrence Garages suggests, and put as much pressure on their local MPs as possible where they believe there are problems, and they in turn can pressure the relevant ministers for as much of a fair playing field as is possible.
But in the meantime it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some amazing forecourt business out there there were 45 new-builds last year, significantly up on the previous two years (see Fuel Market Review page 22). There are always people with new ways and new ideas. Copy them!
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