Forecourt Trader
Home
Menu
Tracy West: retail commentator

I've played the National Lottery since it began nearly 25 years ago. Indeed I went to its launch at the Tower of London; I still remember it now. My old news editor remembers it too, because she says that after the first draw I came into work so disappointed because I hadn't won.

Ray Blake: PRA technical director

My name is Ray Blake and I am a 'Petrol Head'. My addiction to cars drives my wife mad and I thank her for putting up with my obsession for over four decades. From the moment I was given my first Corgi model car when I was five, a Studerbaker Gold Hawk, I was fixated on cars. I have progressed through toy cars (Matchbox, Corgi, Dinky, Hot Wheels, Scalextric) to my first real car (1967 Austin A40 Farina, given to me by my grandfather when I was 16), to the zenith of a collection of six classic cars.

Chris Judge: analysis editor, Argus Media

UK transport fuels shed around 1ppl in January, but the losses are expected to be short-lived, as international oil markets climbed steadily through the month in response to the US sanctions against oil-rich Venezuela.

Stephen Marcos Jones: UKPIA director general

It is a new year, but the fuel supply industry faces the same challenges with uncertainty surrounding the UK's exit from the EU first and foremost a concern on the forecourt and across our sector.

Merril Boulton: editor

Great to see that Shell is raising the bar on forecourt food with its launch of the Jamie Oliver deli by Shell range. The forecourt sector has been crying out for some 'properly decent' food on the go, for some time.

Tracy West: retail commentator

Happy New Year to you all. I was going to begin the year with a look at trends but, if you were to believe all the hype, the biggest trend of all seems to be veganism.

Kevin Eastwood: BOSS - executive director

During the second half of 2018 we saw a significant rise in incidents of crime on forecourts, and the BOSS Forecourt Crime Index for the third quarter of 2018 revealed a 13% rise in the number of incidents. Rising fuel prices also pushed the cost of crime to retailers up by more than 20%. We know that levels of crime fluctuate with the seasons and that there is also a direct correlation with escalating fuel prices. BOSS saw No Means of Payment (NMoP) incidents increase during 2018 and we are now dealing with up to 10,000 incidents every month.

Chris Judge: analysis editor - Argus Media

Oil prices continued their downward trajectory in December after heavy losses in the last quarter of 2018. Concerns about over-supply were further complicated by an uncertain global economic outlook in response to US trade tariffs on China.

James Lowman: chief executive, ACS

As we kick off 2019 with the government still squarely focused on Brexit, it's easy to forget that there are other domestic policies and interventions on the horizon. We're especially interested in two areas where the government is looking to influence consumer behaviour through new legislation.

Merril Boulton: editor

Happy New Year to you all let's hope it's a good one, as the song goes. As we launch into 2019, things appear pretty positive for the fuel retailing sector, with property prices staying strong despite the big deals done last year (see Focus on Property, p31). Even MFG's buyout of MRH, which it was thought at the time might burst the property-price balloon, failed to take significant heat out of the market. With Prax Petroleum's purchase of big dealer group HKS, and oil companies like Certas Energy and particularly Jet back on the acquisition trail, competition for sites remains strong. And there's plenty of talk and debate among certain dealers hoping to expand their networks, looking approvingly at their good margins and positive numbers for the year, and still seeking growth.

Tracy West: retail commentator

Can you believe it's December already. Well, actually I know all of you can because you will have been planning your stock and staff for months. Me? Well, I am just your average consumer so the fact that December is here is still a bit of a shock!

Alexander Russell: consultant, Car Wash Association

The Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has published its report on hand car washes (HCWs) in the UK following written submissions and hearings held in the summer from a number of stakeholder parties, including the Car Wash Association.

Chris Judge: analysis editor, Argus Media

International oil prices were in freefall in November, posting the steepest monthly decline in four years on oversupply and political turbulence rippling through two of the world's largest producers, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Brian Madderson: PRA chairman

Many industry watchers thought that the very high values achieved by dealers (up to 12 x EBITDA) for their assets would soon start to wane.

Merril Boulton: editor

What an aggressive lot those 'gilet jaunes' are, turning Paris into a war zone last month with the worst riots in decades. Protesters clashed with police, looting stores and torching shops and cars, creating absolute chaos on some of the most iconic streets in the city. The reason? Rising fuel taxes. Welcome to our world or it would be if it wasn't for organisations such as the Petrol Retailers Association, who try to educate and inform those in power without so much as lifting a match or sporting a yellow vest. What the French need is Le PRA!

Tracy West: retail commentator

I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit the Forecourt Trader of the Year 2018 recently A26 Tannaghmore in Northern Ireland. And what a pleasure that visit was. It was easy to see how it wowed the judges.

Merril Boulton: editor

Very interesting forum last month on 'The next steps for low-emission vehicles...' (see Industry Insight p23). Apart from the fact that the move to electric vehicles and the necessary infrastructure required to service them, all sounded like one huge, challenging mess despite the enthusiasm of some of the presenters there were certain points raised that made my ears prick up.

Stephen Marcos Jones: director general, UKPIA

As autumn begins to pinch, this is when we as a nation (or the high street retailers at least) begin counting down to Christmas. Santa's delivery supply chain while impressive only covers one day of the year whereas we'll have to keep fuel flowing over the whole Christmas period and beyond, but I'm sure we're all looking ahead in anticipation to the weeks to come.

Ray Blake: PRA technical director

The unmanned operation of petrol filling stations is growing across the UK, sometimes because it is the only feasible way for vehicle fuel to be accessible in remote areas. But also where companies have evaluated the cost of installing and monitoring technical solutions against the ever-rising cost of employing personnel and decided that the outlay is worthwhile.

Chris Judge: analysis editor, Argus Media

International oil prices shed more than 10% in October. Markets fell from the highs seen in September, as Saudi Arabia increased production and assured customers that it would plug any gaps caused by loss of Iranian oil to sanctions. UK transport fuel prices were broadly neutral, but Ice Brent futures ended the month at $75.04/bl, a loss of $7.68/bl on the month.

Merril Boulton: editor

Well what a shocker! The Jet brand is returning to the company owned sector. Brand owner Phillips 66 has bought independent dealer Nick Baker's award-winning business in Yorkshire. While it's only four sites, Mary Wolf, the company's managing director, UK marketing, said the acquisition was the start of a new development for Phillips 66, and marks the first phase in the rollout of its plans while stressing that the company remained committed to the dealer market.

Tracy West: retail commentator

Not sure if you noticed it, but last month Cadbury launched a new chocolate bar.

James Lowman: chief executive, ACS

It's hard to ignore the debate on plastics and the environmental impact of the bottles and bags that are too often discarded into the countryside, waterways and oceans. One of my rules in working out how ACS should address policy challenges is to ask 'Is this a real issue, are the people who are concerned about it justified in demanding action?' In this case, the answer is definitely 'yes' so we should think about what local shops can do to help tackle this problem. Of course, it doesn't automatically follow that any proposed solution is the right one, so we need to be as objective as we can, and ask what will work and what it will mean for members.

Kevin Eastwood: executive director, BOSS

On more than one occasion during the past three months, BOSS has been told by senior police officers that they are keen to have much closer links with forecourt retailers as there are often clear links to more serious incidents. Forecourt crime tends to involve a high number of incidents which are low in individual value. It soaks up manpower and, in an era where resources are under immense pressure, better working relationships can improve safety, save time and reduce losses for fuel retailers.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

Oil prices continue on their upward trajectory, and there are signs of tightness in global markets, felt all the way down the supply chain to the UK pump.

Merril Boulton: editor

The skies above the fuel retailing sector are busy with activity as the powers that be set about making decisions that will influence the structure of the industry well into the future. How much of it amounts to dark thunder clouds on the horizon, and how much potential rays of sunshine has yet to emerge.

Tracy West: retail commentator

So the mighty Coca-Cola has gobbled up Costa Coffee in a £3.9bn deal. Wow. News reports say it's a win-win good news for Costa as the brand can expand further globally and good for Coke as it takes them into hot beverages.

Alexander Russell: consultant, Car Wash Association (CWA)

The Car Wash Association has been lobbying the government directly and through media campaigns during the summer months on the subject of non-compliant hand car washes (HCWs). The aim is to motivate the government and its various stakeholder agencies to inform, encourage and where necessary, oblige illegal HCWs to comply with human trafficking and modern slavery laws as well as to adhere to employment, fiscal and environmental regulations.

Charlotte Blum: Analysis editor

UK road fuel prices are at their highest for four years, underpinned by high crude prices and robust middle distillates demand. US trade policy and its ramifications, as well as supply expectations, again dominated the market, pushing prices first down, then up again in the past month.

Brian Madderson: PRA chairman

If the Road to Zero plan finally published by the Department for Transport (DfT), the Clean Air Strategy published by the Department for Food, Rural Affairs and Environment (DEFRA) together with the demonisation of diesel were not sufficient worries for the UK fuels retailing industry, the proposed £12bn merger of Sainsbury's and Asda plus MFG's £1.2bn acquisition of MRH just add to future uncertainty.

Tracy West: retail commentator

I'm sorry but I'm back on the subject of soft drinks again this month.

Merril Boulton: Editor

Important to stay braced and focused on the positive when opening the sizeable tome that is the government's newly published 'Road to Zero' strategy (see News Extra, page 10). Perhaps read it in small chunks with a nice glass of something so that you don't blow too many gaskets in the same sitting.

Ray Blake: PRA technical director

A question about EV charging was raised recently at the Petroleum Enforcement Liaison Group (PELG) where I have just been made the first chairman to be appointed from 'industry' rather than from 'enforcement'. The question was 'Who would enforce EV charging and how would they know if any had been installed that didn't comply with the guidance and therefore could be dangerous?'.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

International oil prices in July fell at the start of the month, but recovered steadily as the effects of increased production from major suppliers were tempered by an uncertain forward supply picture.

Stephen Marcos Jones: UKPIA director general

Last month, the government published its long-awaited Road to Zero strategy, setting out its proposed approach to reduce emissions from UK road transport. The strategy sets out government's ambition to see more ultra-low emission cars on UK roads by 2030 at least 50% and as many as 70% of new car sales by 2030 alongside up to 40% of sales of new vans during the same period. The strategy also confirms government's intention to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 and outlines how it will work with industry to achieve this. However, Road to Zero is technology neutral and does not speculate on which technologies might help to deliver government's 2040 mission and it does not plan to ban any particular technology, like hybrids.

Merril Boulton: editor

Just back from an excellent PRA/ACS Forecourt Conference, which both informed and inspired in equal measure. The world is always changing, but there is something about the current pace of change and uncertainty across many aspects of life business, political, technological, environment that would be easy to become quite unsettled by, and is prompting much discussion. The fuel retailing industry in particular appears to be standing on the brink of radical change, and no one is quite sure what the future holds or more importantly, how close that radically changing future is, or even how radical it will be! So attending a gathering of relevant minds to consider all the possible options, opportunities and challenges is certainly time well spent.

Tracy West: retail commentator

As a big soft drinks consumer, I've found it interesting to see how the Sugar Levy has been put into action in various retail outlets.

Kevin Eastwood BOSS - executive director

During the FIFA World Cup there were a number of countries who started the competition with low expectations. However, some quiet, careful and thoughtful planning helped them to achieve and make their nations very proud of their performances. The forecourt sector can draw similarities, in particular, when it comes to dealing with crime on our forecourts.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

Changing expectations of supply amid continued strong demand pushed oil prices first down then up again in June, with Ice Brent futures ending June at $77.85/bl.

James Lowman: chief executive, ACS

In recent weeks, the Centre for Social Justice has published a report called Desperate for a Fix, focusing on tackling retail crime and calling for fresh thinking at a national and local level to find policies that can address the increases in theft and other crime that retailers have experienced recently.

Merril Boulton: editor

Quite an eye-opener at last month's APEA meeting (see News Extra, page 10). Not normally my type of gig, since it's all very detailed legal and technical stuff relating to the Petroleum & Explosives Acts and associated environment legislation.

Tracy West: Retail commentator

A recent survey of 1,000 consumers across the UK (undertaken by SOTI who say they are the world's most trusted provider of mobile and Internet of Things device management systems in the world), found that 80% of people would be 'comfortable' in a retail setting where only self-checkout tills were available. Immediately, upon reading this, I thought those 1,000 consumers would have to be younger people but apparently respondents ranged from 18 to 60-years old.

Alexander Russell: consultant, Car Wash Association (CWA)

The Car Wash Association, in conjunction with the Petrol Retailers Association, is continuing to work towards achieving a much greater level of compliance among unregulated hand car washes (HCWs) with employment law, fiscal law, Health & Safety regulations and, most recently, in dealing with the environmental hazards of trade effluent disposal. To this end, the CWA lodged an extensive submission to the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on May 18, ahead of an evidence inquiry session later this month examining HCWs, where senior representatives from the CWA are expected to be invited as expert witnesses. This inquiry will focus primarily on compliance with waste water regulations, alongside allegations of tax evasion and modern slavery. Of special interest to the EAC inquiry will be the correct storage and use of chemicals, some possibly toxic like hydrochloric acid, and the disposal of the trade effluent resulting from the use of such chemicals.

Brian Madderson: PRA chairman

In the real world, the latest UK vehicle statistics from SMMT for January to May 2018 versus the same period last year confirm the collapse of diesel models (-31%), some recovery in petrol +11.3%, the anticipated increase in hybrids +22.6% but a surprising drop in batteryonly electric (BEV) by 4.9%. Thus the latter still represent only a fraction of the total vehicle park. However, it is clear that motorists are sufficiently concerned about actual and proposed anti-diesel moves by government and Local Authorities to opt for petrol and hybrid when buying new. Though this is not replicated in the used car market, where both prices and volumes of diesel models are holding up well.

Charlotte Blum Analysis editor

Geopolitical moves by the US have dominated oil prices, with sanctions on oil producers driving them up further. But Opec is signalling it could increase output, and the danger of a global trade war has just bubbled up again as a threat to demand.

Tracy West: retail commentator

With plastic currently 'pubic enemy number one' it was interesting to read about eco brand Ecover's recent pop-up Rubbish Cafe in London. If you wanted to go inside, you had to 'pay' with recyclable plastic rubbish but once inside, you could savour goodies from a zero-waste menu from eco chef Tom Hunt. The stunt coincided with the arrival of Ecover's new washing-up liquid range which now comes in 100% recycled and 100% recyclable bottles.

Ray Blake: PRA technical director

How communication and technology have changed and keep changing never ceases to astound me. In the field of fuel dispensing into vehicles we first heard the term 'payment app' about five or six years ago. For the past couple of years, forums in which I participate have been trying to resolve the conflict of how to allow payment on the forecourt for fuel from a mobile device, while prohibiting the use of the same device while dispensing petrol. The guidance is now drafted to the effect that the mobile device can be used to make the payment while the customer is inside their vehicle, but it must not be used while they are dispensing.

Charlotte Blum: analysis editor, Argus Media

Brent crude futures at this week topped $75/bl for the first time since November 2014, pushed up by tensions in the Middle East that are exacerbating the underlying effects of strong demand and producers' output restraint. UK drivers are not yet feeling the pressure of the latest $6-7/bl rise as retail prices are slow to catch up.

Stephen Marcos Jones: director general, UKPIA

The eighth high-level meeting of the EU Refining Forum was held in April in Brussels. The Refining Forum was first established in 2013 in recognition of the need to address the cumulative impact of policies on the EU refining industry. This important annual meeting brings together representatives from industry, Member States, the Commission, European Parliament and other key stakeholders to discuss planned and future regulatory proposals with potentially significant impacts on the EU's refining industry and on the security of supply of petroleum products. This year's event represented an important opportunity to discuss the refining industry in the context of energy transition, its enduring relevance and the role of innovation to make the most of opportunities ahead.

Merril Boulton: editor

Consolidation continues to be on trend as yet more giants, this time Sainsbury's and Asda, come together to create a mammoth grocery, general merchandise and clothing retail group with a combined revenue of £51bn. And let's not forget about the 630 or so service stations they have between them, meaning they will collectively hold a 17.9% share of the fuel market. Imagine the impact that could have if the Asda approach to leading fuel prices down is rolled out across the Sainsbury's network too.