Forecourt Trader
Fuel prices: April 25, 2006

Results of this month's online poll:

Will you donate to the ACS fighting fund to challenge the march of the supermarkets?

Retailers fuming over Shell stance

As the pound sign begins to break out on forecourts around the country, the running sore over Shell's long-standing 'cut-price' strategy is also adding to the tension felt by retailers.

grocery digest

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is expected to officially announce shortly that the grocery market is to be referred to the Competition Commission for investigation. More than 1,000 submissions have reportedly been received by the OFT since its draft ruling in March saying it was 'minded' to refer the market.

Thirsty work

Consumers guzzled their way through more than 14 billion litres of soft drinks last year as the total market grew by 5%. For manufacturers the focus was on the increasing demand for healthier choices, which was reflected in the number of new products boasting 'better for you' credentials.

Products and promotions

Coca-Cola Enterprises has just added an apple variant to its low-calorie Fanta Z range. It is available in 330ml cans and 500ml and 2ltr bottles.

Grill seekers

The summer brings with it all sorts of sales opportunities. Hot days mean heavy demand for ice creams and cold drinks. Day trippers need to fill up their cars with fuel and their passengers with snacks, while holiday makers need to buy those last-minute items like batteries for the camera. Then there are the picnics and barbecues to cater for, and barbecues have become something of a national institution. Whatever the weather, if a summer barbecue's been planned you can bet it will still take place. According to the National BBQ Association, 100 million barbecues took place in the UK last year, making us Europe's biggest barbecue fanatics.

Summer sellers

- InBev UK is launching an authentic Aussie 'tinnie' size can for Castlemaine XXXX. The 375ml tinnie, which is the standard lager can size in Australia, will be available in four, 12 and 20-packs alongside the 440ml can packs. A new design emphasises the famous XXXX logo on a yellow and green background - the national colours of Australia. The brand is backed by a national radio campaign on Talksport and also on Real Radio in the Rugby League heartlands to celebrate its role as Official Beer of Rugby League in the UK.

Making the grade

Pumps are the backbone of the forecourt business and advances in technology mean that a retailer's options are ever-increasing. The advent of Chip & PIN-enabled outdoor payment terminals means that unmanned or day/night operations and fast-fuel lanes are now secure possibilities. New fuels such as bio-diesel and LPG offer further choices. And imminent government legislation on Stage II Vapour Recovery is also set to have an impact on the decisions retailers make when installing new equipment.

Top tips

I've a confession to make. I don't like football - I can't see the point of it. There are a million things I'd rather do than chase a ball around a muddy bit of grass for 90 minutes. But that's me. Apparently people love football. Okay - and here's the second part of my confession - I don't like football but I did go to a 'proper' football match once (England versus Germany in Euro '96) and it was exciting. Also, I have been known to watch the odd World Cup game and I have to admit that some of the players are very easy on the eye. Anyway enough of my confessions and onto the tips. My tip is to throw yourself into World Cup fever as much as you can. Everyone's doing it already so there's got to be money in it. The other day I went into M&S and had to fight my way past a large goal complete with model players just to get inside the door, and once inside I was greeted by red and white hats, balls and all sorts of paraphernalia.

BP trials 'high-spec' Ultimate on six sites

An ultra-premium fuel aimed at private motorsports enthusiasts has been launched on selected BP sites. Ultimate 102 costs around £2.42 a litre and is said to be the highest octane fuel available on UK forecourts.

'Drive-offs' status clarified

The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) has won its ten-month campaign to change unpopular Home Office counting rules on drive-offs.

Texaco trials new group loyalty card

Texaco is trialling a new group loyalty card at 150 sites. The We.O.U card allows holders to pool their points (Texaco stars) to benefit local schools.

Gun attack men blasted as 'scum'

A petrol station owner has branded masked men who stuck a gun in the back of his cashier in a terrifying raid as "scum."

Off licence key to Penhallow success

A switch to Spar, a refurbishment and the introduction of an off licence have led to a 20% increase in shop trade for a forecourt business in Newquay.

In brief

Compass is selling its Moto service stations and Upper Crust food chain for £1.8bn. Moto is going to a consortium led by Australia's Macquarie Bank while Compass' fast food brands, including Upper Crust and Caffé Ritazza, are going to a private equity group in Sweden.

Pound of flesh

As BP's Lord Browne warns motorists that filling up with petrol may soon cost £1-a-litre, diesel prices on some sites have already burst through the £1 barrier, leaving retailers to ponder the impact such prices may have on their businesses.

Shop Doctor: Bonjour/Total site at Watling Street, Towcester

On an extremely busy roundabout where the Daventry/Milton Keynes A5 crosses the Oxford/Northampton A34 - on the Watling Street, Towcester side is a large Total/Bonjour site.

Here we go again

Coming back to Britain from Spain after Easter and finding the pump price of unleaded had crept up to more than 95p a litre (with diesel already being advertised at 99.9p on some main road sites) was something of a shock - especially since the Spanish pump price for unleaded worked out at no more than 74p a litre at current exchange rates. With the experts telling us that we "ain't seen nothing yet" as far as this year's oil price is concerned, it's looking pretty likely that the £1 litre of unleaded may be here in a matter of weeks. Even if the US decides not to nuke Iran in the near future, the oil price seems set to stay high during the summer - and that's before we start getting into hurricane season in Texas and the Mexican Gulf, when another repeat of last year's events could send the price soaring to levels that don't bear thinking about. Quite apart from the larger 'economic' effect of fuel prices draining spending power from other sales, which our Database figures suggest is already happening, the cost of fuel may have more 'local' implications for petrol retailers this summer.

Service Centre with Jac Roper

How many people are so absent-minded that they 'forget' to pay for their petrol? In at least 99 out of 100 cases they are just plain stealing if they drive off your premises without at least a discussion about 'forgotten cards'. It's a very sore point with a man called Tom who runs seven service stations in Suffolk and, it goes without saying, suffers from a lot of drive-offs. Tom has asked me not to use his full name.

How to be a winner

Past winners of the Forecourt Trader of the Year awards obviously know a thing or two about running a service station business. But they also know how to enter awards - and get themselves noticed.

Lodge's logic

Rusdene Services is a good example of an independent petrol retailing business that has operated successfully for many years, and - with the continued management ethos - looks set to continue to do so.

Eden's daily data record

Advanced wet-stock management service provider, Edensure, has launched a '500 times-a-day' campaign to promote its ES3 service, which records forecourt data around 500 times a day. The company is also challenging the rest of the industry to fall in line with the high data reconciliation standards it has set.

Atlantis award

Car wash company Atlantis International has been awarded UK Vehicle Cleaning Specialist 2006 accreditation by the Institute of Transport Management.

Wipe out grafitti

Graffiti control specialist, Graffiti Hotline, has launched a new, low-cost, portable, DIY kit for safe and simple removal of graffiti written with spray paint or marker pens.

Candy campaign

Bendicks' Werther's Original brand has been rejuvenated, with new-look packs, new point-of-sale material and new product formats.

Out pop new lines

Healthier snacks brand Snack-a-Jacks has some new additions to its range. The Quaker brand has experienced strong growth over the past two years, as consumers have increasingly sought 'better for you' options. Available now, new Snack-a-Jacks Popcorn comes in sweet butter toffee and savoury lightly salted flavours, with each pack containing less than 10% fat.

Grabbing some snack sales

Grampian Country Food Group has launched the first in a range of quality meat snacking products under the Grabits brand. Aimed at young men on the move, Grabits Chicken on a Stick is an individually wrapped skewer of ready-to-eat chicken breast chunks. It is available in three flavours - original, nice & spicy and Chinese - and comes in display-ready packaging to ensure maximum standout in the chiller cabinet.

Gantry shake up

The tobacco companies have once again been busy, bringing some new products and innovative new pack designs to the cigarette gantry.

Moving into forecourts

Specialist cleaning products company Cleans UK is looking to move into the forecourt sector. Already sold in Homebase and Tesco, its product range includes a leather cleaner and rejuvenator kit, which is ideal for use on car upholstery and motorcycle leathers, as well as a new leather dye repair kit for damaged surfaces. Company boss Paul Rylatt also runs a valeting business and says it is always better to use a product developed solely for cleaning leather instead of an all-purpose product.

Flavoursome trio

Wrigley has launched three new products across its confectionery range.

Sensational revamp

Walkers has relaunched its Sensations brand, with new and innovative seasonings, distinctive new packaging and a new ad campaign.

Mo'gas: An irreverant view from the network

TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL, that is the question. Whether 'tis better to suffer the slings and arrows of dealing with Joe Public and make a living for now or take the dosh while it's on offer and put your feet up.