Forecourt Trader
Fuel prices - March 26, 2007

Fiasco fuels alarm

Last month's furore over contaminated fuel brought some unexpected good fortune to many independent retailers, with increases in fuel volumes of as much as 40% or more being reported by some sites.

Independence Days

Promoting retail excellence is the theme of this year's Pro-Retail show, with the organisers keen for retailers to adopt best-practice techniques to promote a professional business approach and drive profitability.

Tesco petrol tankers
Harvest in push for silicon standard

Harvest Energy, the independent blender and fuel wholesaler at the centre of last month's contaminated fuel furore, is putting steps in place to ensure more rigorous fuel testing procedures, as it seeks to restore confidence in the brand.

in brief

Petrol stations' losses due to card fraud fell by more than 10% last year according to new figures released by the Association of Payment and Clearing Services (APACS). However, the sector still lost £11.4m in 2006 and APACS warned that forecourts continue to be targeted by fraudsters.

Indies resurgent, Lynn tells guests

The independent sector is alive, well and doing rather nicely, some would even say resurgent, John Lynn,

PetroForum in Algarve

A specialist event for multi-site independent dealers will be held in the Algarve in June. PetroForum UK Independents, run by Downstream Events, will take place from June 25-27.

Top Indies group is sold for £15m

Family-owned dealer group Philip Wilks & Sons has been sold for £15m.

Unexpected surge

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.

Forecourt Watch to get much more bite

The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) is launching an enhanced Forecourt Watch scheme, which aims to save petrol retailers in Hertfordshire £300,000 a year by cutting the number of drive-offs and 'no means of payment' offences.

Customer pays up at gun point

A customer ignored an armed robber and paid for his petrol during a filling station raid - despite having a gun pointed at him and being told to go away.

Ray Holloway

It's impossible to write this column without commenting on the fuel quality problems of last month, although I'm sure the supermarkets would prefer that the subject was 'parked'. The facts are, however, that whatever happened to cause the contamination problem, it did call into question the quality issue of a high-value commodity that cannot ever be actually viewed by either retailer or user. While the motorist's acceptance of consistent and even superior quality fuels existed, it undoubtedly helped the supermarket sector to promote its price-focused offers, but changing perception and raising suspicion about quality linked to price changes 'the game'.

Sushi: arriving soon at service stations

Forecourts need to swap Coke and crisps for sushi and smoothies, according to a new report from Datamonitor.

grocery digest

The two main newsagents' trade associations could be on a collision course after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it would consider referring the newspapers and magazines supply market to the Competition Commission for a market investigation. The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) requested a review under the Enterprise Act 2002. But the Association of News Retailing (ANR) has warned that an inquiry could delay progress towards the objective of achieving a more open supply chain.

In the surgery this month - Chicklade Filling Station

During my visit to IFFE 2007 at the Birmingham NEC last month, I spent some time at the impressive - and busy - Pace stand. Pace is keen to sign up more dealers, and claims a 'marketing support package that you might only expect to get from an oil major'. Having never used a Pace filling station and shop before, I was then determined to 'stealthcheck' one. It was difficult to plan my visit as the Pace website does not include a site-locator facility. However, the Sunday after IFFE, while driving west to east on the A303 in Wiltshire, I came across one at Chicklade.

Budgeting for the future

The usual form of this column, every April for the past 10 years, has been to peer behind the 'smoke and mirrors' of Chancellor Brown's annual Budget speeches and prise out some of the nuggets. Well this time it seems pointless as we'll have several years to analyse this budget. You see, this year the Chancellor has really gone into the futurology business. He hasn't simply delayed a few measures (such as the 'fuel duty escalator') until later this year; he's actually laid down a series of fiscal measures which are intended to take effect at various times between now and 2010.

Service Centre with Jac Roper - Tony Barlow beats the Saxon invasion

Last April I put my money on Tony Barlow, who runs The Mount Service Station in Shrewsbury, to win his battle with Saxon Paper and I'm pleased to say I won the bet (although as it was a bet with myself, I'll now have to pay up).

Awards start here

So you think you're a top retailer? Then get your pens and cameras out now and start filling in the forms and taking the pictures that will put you in the running for the top award in the petrol retailing industry - Forecourt Trader of the Year.

Changing faces

One of Shell's newest dealer sites, the Winford Road Garage on the outskirts of Bristol, has come a long way since 1967 when it opened as a local vehicle service centre employing just three people.

Showing the way

Visitors flocked from far and wide for the three-day International Forecourt and Fuel Equipment (IFFE) show at Birmingham's NEC last month. Running alongside the Convenience Retailing Show (CRS), the event gave retailers the chance to check out the latest products and equipment for both the forecourt and the shop.

What's in a name?

Branding is everything nowadays - whether it's the hippest fashion label or coolest make of bottled water - many consumers want to be associated with brands. And independent forecourts can be associated with them too thanks to alliances with the likes of Budgens, Londis and Spar, and in the food-to-go arena they can tie in with coffee companies and people like Subway.

Ice little earners

It's almost Bank Holiday season and that's when sales of ice cream traditionally start to increase, especially if the weather's good.

Rise & dine

It might be dubbed the most important meal of the day, but busy UK consumers are increasingly prone to leaving home without eating breakfast. Research by Datamonitor shows that nearly one third of UK consumers are missing breakfast at home - on average that's 114 per person per year. And the report predicts that by 2010 a greater number of working consumers are likely to either skip breakfast altogether or eat out-of-home.

Major contract for Edensure

Edensure has won a contract which will see the company's ES3 wet-stock management service installed at around 140 Malthurst and Pace sites.

Self-check this out

The Henderson Group is piloting a self-checkout service at its Spar Dundonald forecourt store in Belfast which, if successful, could be rolled out to Spar stores across the UK.

BP adopts E-learning

E-learning company ThirdForce is providing BP Retail with a staff training package that's delivered using a portable, touch-screen tablet PC called the El Box.

A simple approach

The Castrol brand has been relaunched with a simplified range that's designed to make it easier for customers to choose the right oil for their engine.

Tobacco double act

The latest additions to the tobacco gantry include new hand-rolling tobacco Samson Virginia blend from Gallaher, which is exclusive to independent retailers. The new blend has been launched to capitalise on the growing consumer preference for lighter-coloured Virginia tobacco. The introduction coincides with a refreshed pack design for existing Samson lines.

You can trust Walkers

Packs of Walkers' cheese & onion crisps will carry the Carbon Trust logo from mid-April, showing how much carbon was produced in making them.

Werther's minty hit

Following their success as a limited edition, butter mints are now a permanent addition to the Werther's Originals range.

Yazoo goes for longer life

Milkshake brand Yazoo has added a new long-life drinking yogurt to its range, called Yazoo Yogo, in summer berry flavour.

The lighter touch

Coca-Cola Enterprises is launching Oasis Extra Light and, at the same time, reducing sugar across the brand's core range of soft drinks.

Fats keep on falling

UBUK is continuing to cut saturated fat levels in its snack brands, including Hula Hoops, which are being supported by a £1.8m TV advertising campaign.

Minis make for major impulse opportunity

McVitie's Minis biscuits and Jaffa Cakes are available in new grab & go packs for impulse.

Top tips

Every year the Easter egg market gets more and more competitive and, unfortunately for independent retailers, this year is no different. Scouting around my local superstores, I was amazed at the scope of some of the 'bogofs' and cut-price offers.

Share this

Ribena is launching a new 1.25ltr sharing bottle of its ready-to-drink version.

Trident is a big hit

Cadbury Trebor Bassett says its Trident brand has taken an 11.9% share of the UK chewing gum market in its first month.

Gourmet gets two more

Pringles is extending its premium Gourmet range with two new flavours: wild mushroom with roasted garlic and parsley & crumbly mature cheese with spring onion.

Successful smoothies

Fredericks Dairies is expanding its Del Monte ices range with the addition of a strawberry & banana variant to its successful Smoothies range.

Ice cream takes the biscuit

Masterfoods has launched new Twix 'Xtra ice cream bar for summer 2007.


They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the ever-muddied waters of forecourt retailing the difficulty, sometimes, is to work out who is doing the imitating and who is being flattered. There is absolutely no doubt that the major winners in our trade (in fact every bugger's trade) over the past 10 years have been the hypers.