With the turmoils and triumphs of the Covid-19 pandemic seen as largely behind us, it’s time for the fuel and forecourt sector to reflect on what’s been learned and apply this to a reimagined sector.

By Peter Howard.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then a pandemic is the parent of progress. Looking at the progress made by service stations during the past 12 months, there’s no doubt the sector has come a very long way.

Whether determination, innovation or survival was driving that progress, the sudden drop in fuel sales and significant changes in buying behaviour caused by Covid lockdowns were undoubtedly what triggered the sector’s reinvention.

Today, fuel retailers are stronger and better prepared for the future, but with more changes on the way, this isn’t the time to relax.

Speed bumps ahead

Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA) is the national peak body representing the interests of the fuel wholesale, distribution and retail industry in Australia. ACAPMA represents 95 per cent of all fuel distributors and around 75 per cent of the 7300 service stations operating in Australia.

Convenience World spoke to ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie to learn more about the challenges that lie ahead.

“Being the national peak body that represents fuel wholesale, fuel distribution and fuel retail, we represent the end stream, so, everything downstream of the refinery gate, right through to the station forecourt,” he said.

“This means we’re well positioned to see the broader trends, and following the early threat of a decline in fuel sales, we’re seeing a recovery taking shape, driven by a servo’s location, their business model, and the balance of how much of their revenue is from fuel, as against the non-fuel convenience products at the store.

“One of the things I normally deal with and have to fight on talkback radio and other media is being hauled over the coals for petrol prices. So it’s been a really refreshing experience to have news announcers say, ‘I went into the service station the other day and bought a coffee, and it was actually good, and was reasonably priced’.

“So, I think Covid gave us an opportunity for the community to see us in a slightly different light. Those servos that had high-quality in-store offerings have certainly found it helped with the recovery.

“We’re continuing to see that recovery building, although I think we’re going forward through 2021 with a bit of uncertainty about where it’s going to settle. What we’ve really got to consider now is what the future will look like.”

According to McKinsey and Company, the industry is at a crossroads, with operators needing to move quickly to develop strategies, add to their capabilities, and adapt their business models.

Read the fuel and forecourt feature in full, in Convenience World May-June issue.