FT - Ascona Group grand re-opening of Green Garage Service Station RrN4uK3Q

Source: Ascona Group

It aimed to reach 120 sites by April 2022

Ascona Group has missed its expansion goal for the year by almost 60 stores, but intends to keep its sights on new opportunities.

The Nisa-supplied forecourt operator told The Grocer last year it was set to almost double its estate to 120 sites by April 2022, and hoped to get to 300 in three to five years.

At the time, its network consisted of 56 sites across England and Wales, while it was “evaluating” opportunities in Scotland.

The Grocer has learned its estate has grown by six stores over the past year, to 62 overall.

“We continue to pursue a number of opportunities to expand Ascona’s footprint and achieve our ambitious goal of becoming one of the top three independent fuel retailers in the UK market,” said an Ascona spokesman. “We will update again when we have further news.”

Ascona CEO Darren Briggs this week called for a further 20p per litre reduction in fuel duty as rises in pump prices show no sign of slowing down. He argued it was stopping independent forecourt retailers from remaining competitive with the mults, due to differences in their fuel buying cycles.

“The majority of big supermarkets buy their petrol and diesel on a three-weekly lag, which means the petrol and diesel they are retailing today have been bought at a cost price generated over three weeks ago,” he explained.

“In a fast-rising market, supermarkets have a huge competitive advantage over the independent fuel retailer where around 75% or so buy their petrol and diesel on a previous week lag – not a three-weekly lag.”

Briggs’ call followed the news that business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng had asked the Competition & Markets Authority to conduct an “urgent review” of the retail fuel market, amid concerns retailers were not passing on the 5p per litre cut in fuel duty.