What excellent news!

Supermarkets seeking to establish more “standalone” forecourt sites could result in the opening of a further 25 to 40 new filling stations operated by the retail giants each year, the PRA said.

It claimed that “every new supermarket site is sucking the equivalent volume of five independents out of the market”.

How super, eh?

Consumers still get their petrol to consume but the system uses one fifth of the assets and resources to provide it. More ouput for less input: we\’re getting richer in every way.

Hurrah!

18 thoughts on “What excellent news!”

  1. It does seem extraordinarily wasteful to have five petrol stations where one would do.

    If it’s true, which it probably isn’t.

  2. Mmmm…
    Spent a nailbiting while, last year, crawling round Crawley in the wee hours, running on fumes. Bloody hard finding any gas stations, let alone one that was open. (Eventually found one back of the Tesco accepted plastic, but that was the third supermarket the satnav had suggested)
    Fuel retailing’s also about service, isn’t it? It’s all-right having all the pumps on retail parks if you know where the retail parks are.

  3. It is about service but it tends to be those independents that are closed at 3 AM on a Sunday.

    Of course on the continent a lot of them have solved that problem by having a payment terminal connected to the pump. How come you never see that in the UK? Must make fuel theft quite challenging too.

  4. “every new supermarket site is sucking the equivalent volume of five independents out of the market”.

    It’s more likely that they’re taking over from the majors, who have been reducing the number of petrol stations (for various reasons) for years. According to a pretty good authority on the subject, the majors sell their sites mostly to supermarkets.

  5. Fuel retailing’s also about service, isn’t it?

    Sometimes it’s all about service. I attended a fascinating presentation by somebody senior in Total’s retail division last March, and he said they have to compete on service because they cannot compete on price (they all charge the same). He said on France’s motorways they found that their main attraction was the cleanliness of the toilets, especially the women’s. They found that people were choosing which station to use based on the cleanliness of the women’s toilets, the theory being that wifey needs a pee, knows the Total toilets would be spotless, so tells hubby to stop and while he’s there he gets petrol. So they actually had loads of inspectors making sure the toilets were spotless and reporting transgressions, and the fuel sales just followed. An odd activity for an oil company, but there you go.

    His presentation was damned good, really did give a fascinating insight into what’s at play in petrol retailing. I probably asked more questions than everyone else put together. Oh, and some of the girls working in Total’s petrol retailing division are awfully cute, too.

  6. JamesV: “Of course on the continent a lot of them have solved that problem by having a payment terminal connected to the pump. How come you never see that in the UK? Must make fuel theft quite challenging too.”

    You do see that – my local ASDA has had it for over a year now.

  7. Why do we have petrol stations at all, these days? All you need is a small automated pump by the side of the road (with a buried tank), with a place to stop.

  8. Absolutely ! Who needs all thus wasteful competition enlessly replicating a service that could come from one centralised provider?

  9. If the independents were providing a better service than the supermarkets (and, providing fuel shopping next to the food shopping is a quite significant service of convenience) then they wouldn’t be going out of business.

    This reminds me of the “we must prop up competition I like as opposed to the successful businesses I despise” attitude shown in the HMV thread as well as endless ones about coffee shops.

  10. “This reminds me of the “we must prop up competition I like as opposed to the successful businesses I despise” attitude shown in the HMV thread as well as endless ones about coffee shops.”

    Perhaps it’s closer to the plight of high street shops. If the costs imposed by taxes, regulations etc are high enough, it simply becomes uneconomic to continue. The supermarket business model is one of the few that can sustain the burden imposed. The competition is not only for customers but what sort of business can survive a hostile business environment.
    The service element of the argument is presumably we’d prefer to have certain services available to us if we want them. The high street baker. The roadside gas station. If the system’s taxing profits that aren’t there, imposing restrictions that can’t be afforded, then it forces them out.

    Question for Tim Newman if t’other Tim doesn’t mind his comments being used for information gathering.
    Be interesting to learn the set up results in the excellent aires de service on French autoroutes, péage & un-tolled. Compared with a UK motorway service area there’s…. no comparison. French, they’re positively inviting places to stop. Decent restaurants, wash facilities, overnight parking. UK, they want to charge £8 to stay parked more than 2 hours in overpriced shitholes. Wondered if provision of services was a condition of getting the concession to operate the French sites, rather than the companies doing it out of the goodness of their hearts or competitive pressure.

    In a sense, is it the reverse of the UK high street situation? The system imposing a burden on business to directly encourage the provision of a service rather than its parasitic effect deterring one.

  11. You do see that – my local ASDA has had it for over a year now.

    I’ve seen it at Asda, too. Has anyone seen it anywhere other than Asda in the UK? It’s unsurprising that it is the supermarkets doing it.

  12. @Serf

    Possibly, but it might equally be the case that Opet borrowed it from Total. But I very much doubt that this sort of thing originated with Total or is unique to them. I just happened to be in their presentation when I first heard about it.

    @BiS

    Wondered if provision of services was a condition of getting the concession to operate the French sites, rather than the companies doing it out of the goodness of their hearts or competitive pressure.

    I’m not sure, but from what I could gather, the oil companies spruced up their sites in order to attract the customers, who might otherwise go to a competitor’s. But I can’t confirm this.

    @SMFS

    Yes but are you surprised?

    Compared to those working in Exploration & Production, yes.

  13. I’ve seen it at Asda, too. Has anyone seen it anywhere other than Asda in the UK?

    I remember the ASDA in Whalley Range had a pay-at-the-pump system, which negated the need to go to the cashier and pay. Only due to the use of stolen credit cards to buy petrol, you had to go to the cashier and have the card validated before you could pay at the pump.

    The Brits can be masters at taking a good idea and fucking it up completely without quite realising they’re doing it.

  14. The UK service stations are mostly a lot better than they used to be. Several are still terrible, like the one at the channel tunnel.

    Still worse than most of the continental ones. Except Belgium – they are worse than in the UK.

    Now, the “service station” at Voralpenkreuz in Austria has to be seen to be believed. It is almost worth a trip in its own right.

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