BP Convenience Stores Ask for Help Against Boycotts

NEW YORK -- As some Americans reject BP-branded gasoline and convenience stores to protest the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, those station owners are insisting BP do more to convince consumers that the boycotts mostly hurt independent businesses, The Associated Press reported.

To win back customers, the station owners would like BP's help to reduce the price at the pump. In recent weeks, some station owners from Georgia to Illinois have reported sales have declined as much as 10 percent to 40 percent, according to the report.

In addition, retailers and BP gas distributors want help paying for more advertising aimed at motorists, John Kleine, executive director of the independent BP Amoco Marketers Association, said in the report. The station owners also want more frequent meetings with BP officials.

"They have got to be more competitive on their fuel costs to the retailers so we can be competitive on the street ... and bring back customers that we've lost," Bob Juckniess, who has seen sales drop 20 percent at some of his 10 BP-branded stations in the Chicago area, told the AP. He has been running his own promotions -- including free coffee and $2 off a car wash -- but wants BP to step up support of both the stations and the BP brand.

"We're their branded marketers," he said in the report. "It would be foolish for BP to not support its branded marketers when clearly we can document that some of the loss that we've experienced is due to the incidents in the Gulf."

The demands were delivered at a Chicago meeting with BP marketing officials. BP's reply could come as early as this week, according to Kleine, whose group represents hundreds of distributors.

BP spokesman Scott Dean declined to offer specifics to the AP about the discussions.

"BP is in daily contact with its independent distributors and franchisees and helping them manage the impacts the oil spill is having on their businesses," he said in the report.

Gasoline retailing trade groups have reported the boycott's impact isn't only evident in southern states such as Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Places further from the spill such as southern Pennsylvania are seeing an impact. Jim Smith, president and CEO of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, told the AP BP has given some station owners a one-cent-per-gallon discount, which "doesn't amount to much." Kleine, meanwhile, told the AP the discount appears limited to Florida, and declined to give the size of the discount that was requested at the Chicago meeting.

Paola Soldevilla, manager of a BP station in Pembroke Pines, Fla., told the AP it was only when images of oil-soaked wildlife appeared in the media that sales fell off. So sharply, in fact, that she won't get her usual one-week paid vacation, according to the report.

Kevin Dalton was in a similar situation at his then CITGO-branded station in 2006, when President Hugo Chavez made anti-American statements that led to a boycott of the Venezuelan-owned gas company. Sales of gas and in-store items dropped more than 50 percent at Dalton's location in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Today, as a Shell-branded station, sales have increased 15 percent since the spill started in late April, but Dalton told the AP it's hard to directly tie that to a BP station less than a mile away.

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