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Deals that dominate the market

After its predecessor, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), gave the road fuels market a clean bill of health in early 2013, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has ignored calls for a fresh inquiry and left the sector well alone. But two major deals mean it is now assessing businesses that between them own 18.5% of the UK's forecourts and account for almost a quarter of the road fuel sold in the UK.

A rocky road ahead

The Road to Zero strategy is nothing short of the government's blueprint to phase out two of the bed rocks of the forecourt sector petrol and diesel. While the 'zero' it refers to is emissions from road vehicles, its method for achieving this is prohibiting the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars (excluding hybrids) by 2040, and aiming for close to nil on the roads by 2050.

Conundrums for retail managers

Facing change and challenges are major aspects of the job of a retail manager in the fuels marketing and forecourt retailing sector. Looking at the market now compared with where it was five years ago, there has been significant change and upheaval. There are, however, some things that never change the most important of which is that if you are not looking after your customers and keeping up with or preferably ahead of your rivals and market trends, you are falling behind.

Targeting the cowboys

Years of campaigning by the PRA and Car Wash Association paid off last month when their chairman, Brian Madderson, was invited to give evidence to MPs on the damage unregulated hand car washes are wreaking on the legitimate trade, and the environment. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has used a wide interpretation of its brief to investigate not only the pollution caused by hand car washes (HCWs), but also the harm they cause to sustainability in terms of labour exploitation and other associated criminality.

Fuel for thought

None of the pontificating politicians in Westminster, who are currently debating forcing forecourts to install electric charging points, appear to have given any thought to the practical issues involved. Had they attended the launch of the fourth edition of the Blue Book they would now be having second thoughts.

UK Hand Car Wash Market - Key Fact

Size >10,000 hand car washes (7,000 mechanical washes), around 60% of total

Turning the tide

With the National Crime Agency investigating links with organised crime and drug smuggling, and raids almost on a daily basis looking for slaves among their work forces, illicit hand car wash operators were probably wondering when MPs would wake up to the problems they pose. What few were expecting, however, was that it was their appalling record of environmental carnage, which has faced minimal enforcement from the authorities, that has finally tipped the balance.

Fuel for thought

Shell added some perspective to the 'electric' onslaught last month with the opening of a new hydrogen refuelling station at Shell Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. It happened in the same week as the Department for Transport confirmed a multi-million pound funding boost to increase the uptake of hydrogen.

Opportunity knocks?

With the two biggest members of Forecourt Trader's Top 50 Indies snapping up more and more of the other groups in the listing, it was only a matter of time before they began to consider the biggest deal of all, but its timing still took many people by surprise.

Electric avenues

Many forecourts owners have been looking at the various options for installing electric charging facilities, with many deciding it is too early to commit, but a Bill currently going through Parliament may force their hand.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 18 May 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East112.4663.50123.15106.89
East Midlands112.21122.26106.78
London113.5664.90124.71108.57
North East110.8763.90125.50105.36
North West111.4965.90121.74106.55
Northern Ireland108.30111.90101.84
Scotland110.85121.31104.90
South East113.30122.65108.11
South West112.20120.84106.51
Wales110.67120.17104.73
West Midlands112.13125.92106.81
Yorkshire & Humber111.7057.70123.12106.23

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