The growing sophistication of independent petrol forecourt convenience stores is helping them claw back margin from squeezed fuel at the pumps, the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) has claimed.
PRA chairman Brian Madderson commented after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said a fall in the value of the pound would increase the price of goods and services imported into the UK but many factors could delay the effect, such as buying stock in advance.
Sterling ended October as the worst performing currency in the world at about £1.21 to the dollar and Madderson predicted it could fall to at least £1.10.
He thought “the low pound could be with us for at least the next two to three years”.
The ONS said some businesses might choose to absorb higher costs rather than pass them on.
But a fall in the value of the pound made it cheaper for overseas visitors to come here and spend money. However, there was no evidence that UK citizens’ “staycations” had increased in popularity yet.
Madderson said the average price at the pump was creeping towards 117p a litre and diesel nearly 119p across the UK.
But he said the symbol group suppliers of independent forecourt c-stores had been able to evolve and help stores to generate income and higher margins.
“Our members have been able to develop an alternative income stream that provides good margins and a really good destination for their customers.
“Independent convenience stores on forecourts are becoming more sophisticated and the next curve is much improved food to go,” said Madderson
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said forecourt retailers had to consider a wide range of factors to ensure their business remained competitive, which included not only fuel prices but also the margin of products in stores “as well as other challenges such as employment costs. It is up to each business to decide what is right for them to ensure that they can compete.”
Lowman did not expect an increase in UK tourism to directly result in a widespread uplift in sales across the UK “but where more people are staying locally, retailers need to capitalise on the extra footfall,” he said.