Independent forecourt operators have been urged to improve store standards to hold market share as the multiples increase their fuel estates.

In the Christie + Co Business Outlook 2014, director and head of retail Steve Rodell said that independent forecourts would see more competition this year, as research revealed that for every 50 forecourts opened each year, 40 are opened by multiple supermarkets.

However, he said there was an opportunity to take advantage of the move towards symbol groups entering the market. “Some 47% of all forecourt shops do not trade under a recognisable brand,” said Rodell. “We expect to see operators move to and switch between brands to secure the best deals. Significantly, the symbols are moving more into the forecourt space, with Spar and Nisa offering branded forecourt fuel and retail services.”

Paul Cheema recently acquired a forecourt store in Tile Hill, Coventry. He said that the multiples were just realising the opportunity that lies in the sector. “It takes a lot of time to get right, but it can be very lucrative, which is why so many multiple-operated forecourts are opening up,” he said.

He added: “Existing operators will need to ensure that both the fuel and store side of the business are working well. It’s the fuel that attracts people, but the store has to have the range and quality to make people buy groceries there.”

Overall, convenience store property prices saw another decrease over the past 12 months, dropping by 1% in 2013. This is the third year in a row prices have dropped.

Rodell added that the battle for financially lucrative sites would continue in 2014. “Convenience retailers seeking stores of about 2,000sq ft will not lack options, but finding sites and purchasing them are two very different matters.”