September 27, 2021
Last Friday, all hell broke loose. Consumers- fresh off the battle for toilet paper in March of 2020 and desperate to go another round- decided to make fuel their next target.
Small Business Minister Paul Scully found out the hard way that you need to choose your words carefully on national TV. The media doubled down on his comments, choosing to take the exact words “don’t panic” out of context. The highly regarded (can you type a sarcastic tone?) Express Online led with the headline “MP warns of drivers panic-buying.” Go figure.
Along with our users, the EdgePetrol team had front row seats to the madness. Waking up on Friday morning and some user’s volumes were already 500% up on the previous Friday. Some petrol stations finished on almost 1000% increase.
As sites started to stock out, volume levels started to even out. Across all EdgePetrol UK users, volumes ended the day up 137%. Many consumers had to head home with their tanks empty. Many station owners did too.
As I was driving (on a low tank) past stocked-out stations on my way to dinner on Friday, I noticed something strange. Despite the fact that there was no fuel available, all but one of the four stations I drove past were open. Cars were parked on the forecourt and people were going into the shop.
This industry has worked incredibly hard over the past five or so years to meet new consumer demands. A sentiment further strengthened by the pandemic, convenience is everything in 2021 and many stations are perfectly located to take advantage of these new habits. Shops no longer just sell ‘cokes & smokes’. There is an increasing variety and quality of hot food options and you can do your lottery, get your car washed and pick up/send packages. Plus, there’s usually a free parking space you won’t get on your high street.
This is a big sense check for station owners and operators. If you are having to close up because you have no fuel, how is your station going to fare against a 2030 target (however ridiculous) for no new petrol or diesel cars? How will you cope if a big player opens up a two-acre station across the road? What will you do the next time you stock out?
If you haven’t already, it’s time to bullet-proof the business.
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