A significant new retail entrant to the forecourt sector could make its presence felt in 2014, according to Steve Rodell, director and head of retail at specialist property adviser Christie & Co. “They have significant capital funding and could buy a national chain if they are able to find the right deal,” he confirmed.

He also revealed that Christie & Co is working in conjunction with the PRA to produce a ‘toolkit’ for retailers to provide them with the right information to challenge planning applications for supermarket filling stations in their area. It would show how, although fuel prices dip when a supermarket comes along, it also wipes out about four or five local petrol forecourts.

Rodell was speaking at the launch of Christie & Co’s review of the market - Business Outlook 2014. He said: “Not for the first time, fuel and petrol forecourt businesses grabbed the headlines, with the future of the independent fuel retailers in question.

“The shift in fuel volume share to the supermarkets - described as a ‘massacre’ of independent retailers by PRA chairman Brian Madderson) - saw dealer volumes down to 1.8mlpa per site, compared to 12mlpa for supermarkets. Not only did this signal that dealers were being overtaken by the supermarkets, but it also raised serious questions about fuel resilience in many UK regions.

“On a more positive note, the continuing disposal of forecourts by oil companies looking to concentrate on the supply-side created many opportunities for dealers, who continued responding to the supermarket threat through diversification. However, the threat will remain considerable as our own research revealed that for every 50 new forecourts opened each year, 40 are opened by the supermarkets.”

The report says one of the significant trends in the market is independent convenience store operators seeking strength in numbers afforded by symbol branding. Rodell said: “Many forecourt shops do not trade under a recognisable brand. To attract more transient business we expect to see operators move to and switch between brands in a ‘compare the market’ type exercise in order to secure the best deals. Significantly, the symbols are moving ever more into the forecourt space, with Spar and Nisa now offering branded-forecourt fuel and retail services.”