So - many independents enjoyed an unexpected surge in business last month, thanks to some problems with fuel which was headed predominantly in the direction of supermarket fuel storage tanks in the south east.
Very satisfying. But did the traditional fuel retailing sector make the most of it? Some think not. Notably vociferous is Ron Haacke, managing director at Petrol Express, who believes there has been a big opportunity missed. "Not one person of any consequence, whether oil company press officer or industry association, had the balls to say ’trust the established brands that you know. This is UK refined product produced to the highest specification’. That is why Petrol Express signed a contract with Texaco and it is why the public also returned to the Shell, Esso and BP forecourts in a vote of confidence. But where were the comments to the general public coming from in our industry? A sad miss."
Susie Hawkins of the Simon Smith Group also believes the industry missed a trick: "I don’t think the fact there’s a difference between the fuel suppled to a supermarket and that supplied to an oil-company branded site was clearly put across," she says. "We’re always led to believe that our fuel is superior, but nobody seemed to be saying it publicly."
Well, it may not have happened on a national basis, but retailers can still keep their customers informed locally, by pushing the quality fuel offer - and, as Ray Holloway has stressed, by being on their absolute best behaviour in terms of customer service, to prevent that new-found audience being tempted back to the scene of the crime...