As the country got back into action after Christmas, a survey showed that nearly a quarter of petrol retailers were showing unprecedented confidence about the forthcoming year. This sentiment was not shared in Rugby where the last independent petrol station closed. BigOil.net was launched, giving retailers access to comprehensive fuel pricing data.
Having run out of steam, Esso’s controversial Pricewatch campaign came to an end after an eight-year run. Launched in 1996 it sparked intense price wars as the major oil companies battled it out with the supermarkets and many retailers got caught in the cross-fire. Esso also hit back at allegations by Friends of the Earth, that it had caused five per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Morrisons completed its purchase of Safeway, increasing its petrol forecourt network to 309 sites. Concerns over the spectre of chip and pin technology was raised; and Texaco held a retailer convention at the Birmingham Metropole, attended by 460 people.
The rate of forecourt closures was seen to have increased with the latest figures showing 890 sites had shut in the previous year – a rate of 16 a week. Somerfield said it was looking for independent retailers to become franchisees, and Fuelforce decided to move to a direct-managed mode of operation on its Jet-branded sites.
Budgens owner Musgrave made a new offer for the Londis symbol which would give retailers a potential £30,000 in their pockets. The Gulf brand was making big inroads into Scotland and Roadchef was setting new standards on the M6 toll road. Shop Doctor was launched!
Fears of a return to the fuel crisis of 2000 were raised as rising prices, threats of demonstrations and uncertainty in the Middle East made the headlines in the national press. The Regent brand, not seen since the ‘60s, made a return to UK forecourts, available from Texaco’s network of equity distributors.
A fighting fund to tackle the industry-wide problem of wetstock loss was launched by the PRA. Director Ray Holloway said the challenge was about the integrity of measurement for motor fuel deliveries for retailers. Meanwhile UKPIA said there was enough oil to last us the next 50 years.
Total claimed to have bucked the trend of rising violent crime, cutting incidents of robbery and assault on its forecocurts by 56% in two years following the launch of its Anti Assault and Robbery Campaign. Welcome Break’s initiative to combat forecourt crime also proved positive.
As fuel sales paid by card continue to increase, UKPIA was spearheading a cut in Merchant Service Charges. Esso was recommending Spar as the symbol group supplier of choice for its independent dealers.
It was the turn of Peter and Pat Bellini to wear the Forecourt Trader of the Year crown when the winners were announced at a grand ceremony at the London Hilton. However, Q8-branded retailers were uncertain about their future as Kuwait Petroleum GB was sold to a joint venture group.
Esso launched its Energy brand and independent retailer Susie Hawkins won the Global Scholarship Competition at NACS.
The long-running court case involving former Esso licensees came to an end when their case was dismissed on appeal. Confusion over alcohol licensing laws may put retailers at risk of fines over hot food sales.