Petrol stations could be the next victim of the coronavirus pandemic, after warnings that a dearth of business will force many to close in the coming weeks.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents the independent fuel retailers that make up the majority of UK forecourts, cites a government survey claiming sales of petrol have fallen by an average of 75% across the UK, with diesel down 71%.
“Many petrol stations will have to close in the coming weeks, as sales of fuel dry up and their businesses become unviable,” the PRA said in a statement.
Stations in hardest-hit rural areas will be most at risk, it claims. Motorists are advised to check that their local station is actually open before leaving the house.
The problem is compounded by the majority of retailers filling their fuel storage tanks at much higher wholesale prices prior to the price of crude oil collapsing. In the past week, fuel prices have fallen to a rate not seen since June 2003.
“Fuel retailers are having to maintain pump prices at previous levels to avoid suffering significant stock losses,” the PRA claims.
The PRA aims to keep a “strategic network of petrol stations open across the country” but acknowledges the immediate challenges many of its retailers face. As well as reduced demand and falling prices, staff shortages, competition from supermarkets and lack of delivery flexibility are all taking a toll.