Posted: 01/07/2022

Fuel prices starting to impact indie retailers’ sales patterns

The soaring cost of petrol is now dampening demand for many independent retailers as well as continuing to create supply-side challenges.

Leading figures from across the sector have warned that customers are driving less and restricting their spending in store.

It comes as the cost-of-living crisis rages, with consumer price inflation rising to 9%  and the price of filling an average family car hitting £100.

Clare Jackson, director of Suffolk-based Slate Cheese, told FFD: “Speaking to customers in the shops, people are using their cars less. 

“We are getting slammed on all fronts – the local holiday cottages are not fully booked, there are not so many day trips and even those who are coming are bringing their own picnics rather than buying from us.”

As well as noticing increasingly cost-conscious behaviour from customers, Slate is being squeezed by suppliers hiking prices in light of their own economic challenges.

“We can’t offer huge promotions so we are trying to make the experience as high-value as we can to encourage footfall,” said Jackson.

Barbara Cossins, owner of Rawston Farm Shop, said the Dorset-based outlet was “definitely quieter”.
She added that tourism was massively reduced in the area’s seaside towns. 

Cossins said people were more likely to drive to a supermarket where they could buy all their groceries in one trip – and potentially fill up with relatively affordable petrol – rather than drive around the countryside to specialist retailers.  

“I think the hardest thing is that businesses are so unsure of what the future holds, especially the small independents who are not getting the footfall,” she said. “I was dreaming only the other night that I needed to buy a minibus and go and pick up my customers myself.”

Consumer behaviour consultant Philip Graves said decisions about when to drive and where to fill up with petrol were being taken “more consciously than before”. 

“The rapidly increasing pump prices, appreciable extra cost to fill the car and media coverage mean that consumers are giving more attention to fuel prices than previously,” said Graves. “For small independents like delis and farm shops, this is likely to be problematic.” 

The British Retail Consortium found that food sales fell 1.3% on a like-for-like basis in the three months to May. 

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