The 2017 Forecast for Motor Fuels

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The 2017 Forecast for Motor Fuels

By Linda Lisanti, Convenience Store News - 01/16/2017

NATIONAL REPORT — Low gas prices will continue to be the chief storyline in "The Tale of Motor Fuels" in 2017, but the ending of this year’s chapter should be even happier than previous ones, according to the findings of the 15th annual Convenience Store News Forecast Study.

The CSNews Forecast Study provides dollar and unit volume projections in key c-store product categories based on data from various sources, including Nielsen for category sales history; TDLinx for store counts; and government sources for motor fuel volume and pricing data. The data is then run through a sophisticated projection model and presented in summary form. Maureen Maguire, founder and CEO of New York-based ThinkResearch, oversees the Forecast Study process.

The last time the average U.S. retail price per fuel gallon (all grades) tipped the $3 mark was in 2014. Since then, the average price has remained in the $2 range, and that is forecasted to again be the case in 2017, with the average price for the year projected at $2.49 per gallon.

Although this is slightly higher than 2016’s estimated per-gallon price of $2.27, this year’s Forecast Study results show 2017 consumption of motor fuels will be up slightly — both on a national level and a convenience-store-specific level. Consumption was relatively flat in 2016.

Nationally across all outlets, the forecast calls for a total of 189.2 billion gallons of gasoline to be sold in 2017, up from 187.5 billion in 2016 (estimated) and 187.5 billion in 2015 (actual). At the c-store level, the forecast calls for 153.5 billion gallons to be sold in 2017 — 81 percent of the national total — up from 151.9 billion in 2016 and 152.1 billion in 2015.

Because of the increased consumption, combined with the slightly higher 2017 per-gallon prices that are projected, national and c-store sales of gasoline should see a rise dollar-wise. C-store sales are forecasted to be $382.2 billion, while national sales are forecasted at $471.3 billion. The c-store dollar figure for 2017 equates to a 10.9-percent improvement vs. a year ago. 2016 estimated dollar sales fell by 11.8 percent compared to 2015.

Based on this positive forecast, it makes sense that c-store retailers surveyed are more optimistic on the fuels category than they were a year ago. More than six in 10 operators expect their per-store fuel volume to increase in 2017 (up from 52.9 percent of retailers a year ago).

Lower prices, new technologies at the pump, and new payment methods are among the top reasons c-store retailers give for why they are bullish on the fuels category.

Look in the January issue of Convenience Store News for the full Forecast Study.