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Demand outstrips supply

Roadside retail has become the new high street. So says Adam Wadlow, director at property advisors Barber Wadlow. "We have become convenience junkies where we want everything now or very quickly. That's why we're seeing new petrol stations with Costa, Starbucks and other food-to-go outlets, whether they're incorporated in the store or are standalone units adjacent to the forecourt. Groups including Euro Garages and Applegreen are investing heavily in their retail offers."

Big deals

There's no doubting the big property stories of 2018 with the biggest of them all being MFG's acquisition of MRH but there was a lot more going on than that. Think Prax buying HKS, as well as Certas Energy and Jet snapping up sites. Indeed, according to forecourt property specialist Barber Wadlow, excluding the MFG/MRH deal, there were an estimated 195 sites transacted last year, which is 15% up on the 2017 figure.

Beacons for business

The acquisition of MRH by MFG earlier this year could be good news for everyone in the fuel retailing sector, according to Adam Wadlow, partner at fuel and automotive property advisers Barber Wadlow, which has just published its latest Forecourt Property Market Update. "It shows that the independent dealer sector is being corporatised and each operator is becoming quite a sophisticated retail business and a long way from the old days of retailers pulling a piece of paper out of their back pocket to show trading figures," he says.

Sky-high prices

In the forecourt property world, some dealers are being made offers on their sites that they can't refuse. Not, of course, in the sense of the infamous Don Corleone quote from The Godfather, but more along the lines of a once-in-a-lifetime offer that they can't resist.

In demand

After a year of big merger and acquisition stories Euro Garages with EFR (European Forecourt Retail Group) and MFG's purchase of Synergie Holdings and Roadside Group to name just two the verdict on the forecourt property market is in. Last year was a good one demand is still strong, but it's a lack of supply that's the problem.

Boom time

Barber Wadlow research (in association with Experian Catalist) recorded a 14% increase in petrol station property values in 2015 the fourth consecutive year of growth. This means values have now increased by nearly 50% since the bottom of the market in 2011, so a site worth £750,000 in 2011 is potentially worth £1.1m today.

A seller's market

It depends who the seller is, states Steve Rodell, director and head of retail at Christie & Co, when asked if it's a buyer's or seller's market. "For example, if you're an oil company and have a structured disposal programme that is linked to supply deals, it's a seller's market as so many dealers want an oil company disposal." David Collins, a director at Adlers, is more emphatic: "It's definitely a seller's market. There are so few opportunities available to smaller operators and there is a great deal of pent-up demand."

Des res

When it comes to the forecourt property market, it's very much a matter of opinion as to whether 2013 was a busy year or not. Anthony Keohane, director of automotive and roadside at Colliers, says 2013 was "another busy year" with the supermarkets and oil company/supermarket joint ventures continuing their expansion trail. "BP, with M&S, has been particularly active and Sainsbury's has now opened the first of a package of sites that it acquired from Rontec, in Horley.

On the move

The past 12 months has been one of the busiest periods in recent history in the forecourt property sector, according to Adam Wadlow, director at property adviser, Barber Wadlow. "We estimate that there have been over 1,100 petrol stations sold or let since the end of 2011, which represents an incredible 12% of the total number of forecourts (8,765 sites). But despite such an abundance of market activity, the general public's perception of the sector is similar to that of pubs that all appear to be closing!"

Buyers beware

Anyone who has acquired a petrol forecourt business will know that there are many different elements to keep in mind during the buying process, which keep both the buyer and their lawyers busy.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 30 March 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East118.96132.05114.52
East Midlands119.01131.46114.46
London119.6659.90134.71116.14
North East116.33131.57110.86
North West117.71131.66113.21
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West Midlands118.8857.90135.85114.78
Yorkshire & Humber117.69131.84113.09

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