Sales of petrol fuel fell by a fifth in 2020

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Sales of petrol reversed 20.9 per cent annually last year, official statistics show.

With many working from home during the lockdown and year-long restrictions hitting travel and gatherings, people have used cars far less than they usually would, meaning filling stations have seen a huge decline in sales. 

Supermarkets suffered the most, with an average 22.3 per cent decline in fuel business last year. 

That’s despite them being one of the main retailer groups staying open throughout the three lockdowns enforced in England.

Petrol sales plunge by a fifth: Forecourt sales of unleaded fuel dropped by 21% last year as a result of fewer Britons taking to the road during the pandemic, official stats have confirmed 

Supermarket diesel sales also decreased more than for fuel retailers in general, down 21.6 per cent compared to a drop of 15.9 per cent for all diesel sales, according to the new figures published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

While supermarket fuel is generally the cheapest on sale in the UK, fewer members of the public had wanted to travel to large stores to shop, instead switching to online deliveries, which boomed as a result of the coronavirus spread last year.

Conventional fuel retailers, which tend to be more localised and in more rural locations, would likely have benefited from this trend.

Luke Bosdet, the AA’s spokesman on fuel, said: ‘The greater impact of lockdown-restricted travel on supermarket petrol sales compared to the trade in general is a little surprising given that superstores have remained open throughout the pandemic.

‘Fuel sales were always going to take a huge hit from car travel falling as low as 22 per cent (12 April) of pre-pandemic levels. 

‘However, supermarkets continuing to trade suggested better fuel sales resilience, although the boom in grocery deliveries will have also meant fewer visits to the stores’ forecourts.’

With traffic volumes falling by as much as 80% last April, the AA said it was no surprise to see the significant fall in fuel sales last year

Supermarkets suffered the most, with an average 22.3% decline in fuel business last year. That’s despite them being one of the main retailer groups staying open throughout the three lockdowns enforced in England

Petrol prices dipped below £1-a-litre for the first time in four years in 2020, with oil values impacted not just by the pandemic but also a production fallout between Russia and Saudi Arabia weeks before Britain’s first lockdown.

Oversupply, lack of storage and a cliff-edge fall in demand saw prices slip to levels not seen since January 2016, with the likes of Asda selling unleaded for 99p-a-litre.

However, non-supermarket retailers failed to match these prices, even despite the wholesale price crash.  

‘Now drivers know that, in general, they fared better than the superstores,’ Bodset added.

Fuel prices have risen dramatically in since November, with prices ‘levelling-off’ at around 126p-a-litre by the end of March.

It means that drivers are now paying £6.33 more for a typical tank of petrol than in the autumn.


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