Soaring fuel prices have left many cutting down on journeys and worrying about how they get to work. However, it’s not just drivers struggling with rising fuel prices, with many small independent garages also barely scraping by due to the crisis.
Jenny Summers helps run the Great Horkelsey Garage, near Colchester, after her father-in-law retired four years ago following decades in the business.
According to Essex Live, she’s faced horrible comments from customers who likely don’t realise the garage only makes about 5p for every litre they sell, and as prices rise about £2 she’s opened up about the struggles the industry is facing.
“I am lucky I have the workshops here so other revenue streams that help out – if we were just a petrol station I’d be thinking about closing down if I’m honest,” Jenny admitted. “We have no choice but to put prices up, we can’t afford to sell it at a loss – no one can. I would think anybody would be hard pushed to find any industry that’s happy with a margin of 5p. I am getting really hacked off with all these people saying that we are fleecing them, even the government are saying it’s us. The government help of 5p was nothing – prices went up the same week so made no difference, it just cancelled it out.”
Jenny’s accountant has advised her to put a full price breakdown on the pumps to show people they’re not being greedy, in fact, they’re also struggling to get by. As an independent small garage, the big retailers such as Shell and BP won’t sell to them, so they have to rely on smaller companies which charge more and don’t benefit from bulk buying like the supermarkets do.
They can also only store one type of petrol so only have the more expensive super-unleaded. According to Jenny, the real money maker is the items they sell in the shop and the work done in the garage, not the fuel itself. The fuel is just to get people through the door, and she says without the extras the premises wouldn’t survive.
The garage has to sell fuel for whatever the retailer sells it to them for, then factoring in VAT, fuel duty, credit card charges and any other costs incurred by the premises – such as the cost of refitting the forecourt several years ago. While drivers might think petrol stations are skimming off the top and being “greedy”, the reality is far from it.
On Tuesday, a photograph of the fuel prices at Great Horkesley Garage went viral as prices went to over £2 – but the reaction and commentary is something Jenny has taken personally and she feels like the industry’s side of the story isn’t being told.
She added: “I don’t think many people choose to go into this business, it’s not an easy one to be in. It’s always been difficult but at the moment the government needs to do something radical to help short term. We’ve been through difficult times – the run on fuel last year even though there was no need, this year protesters. It just feels like as an industry we are getting hammered on all fronts and we’re always the ones getting blamed.
“The retailer will take money if we sell or not, in 10 days they take the money out of the account even if it is still in the ground. People need to actually do some investigating before they have a pop at us – everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but do a bit of homework first before you automatically assume the petrol station is fleecing you. Come in and talk to us!”
The garage has been in Great Horkesley since the 1940s, with black and white photos proudly displayed on the walls to show what it used to be like back in the day. However, with hours at the petrol station being cut due to a lack of business and prices predicted to keep rising, the future looks bleak for businesses like Jenny’s. Next time you fill up and the cost hits you like a fist to the stomach, just remember not to blame the people behind the till, as they’re likely struggling just as much as you are.