Community retailers reaped the rewards of the recent fuel scare, while forecourt traders struggled to keep up with demand at the pump.

The threat of a strike by fuel tanker drivers, combined with government warnings over petrol use, led to consumers leaving their car at home and walking to their local store in two weeks before Easter.

Arjan Mehr of Londis in Bracknell, Berkshire, said: “Items that have generally static sales, such as bread and milk, were up, which is usually a good indication of footfall. I think this is due to customers being wary of using petrol and not travelling to out-of-town supermarkets.”

West Sussex retailer Anjali Karpal added: “I don’t know if it’s down to the threat of strikes, but there’s been a definite increase in trade since the issue began. Both of my shops have been much busier in the past fortnight.”

Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire forecourt retailer Jonathan James had to ration petrol sales due to panic at the pumps. “We limited petrol purchases to £30 at our Littleport store because it was getting limited deliveries, and to £50 at our Ely store. We didn’t know when fuel tankers were going to turn up.

“Fuel sales were up about 30%, but they would have been up even more had we not run out at both stores for between 24 and 48 hours.”

Symonds Forecourts managing director Nick Lloyd said some of his sites saw a 100% uplift in fuel sales, while customer count increased by up to 50%. However, the impact on in-store sales was minimal. “Customers simply wanted to pay and leave as quickly as possible,” he added.