BP Station Owners Anticipate Long Term Harm To Sales

Independent BP station owners and distributors that have weathered boycotts, protests and angry customers are counting on BP to rehabilitate its image, but do not expect fast relief from the sales hit they've endured, according to published reports.

"You don't have a problem like this and have it go away overnight," Tom Bower, who owns some 30 BP convenience stores in Georgia and supplies BP-branded gasoline to others in the state, said in reports. "It's going to take a lot of work, but hopefully they'll persevere."

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, told The New York Times sales for major BP distributors and retailers tumbled 10 percent to 30 percent early on, depending on store location. Kloza more recently saw an average decline of roughly 5 percent across the board.

"It peaked in late June, in terms of the damage and the backlash," he said. "Most of the people are coming back."

BP also offered convenience store owners and distributors small discounts on fuel and a break on credit card fees. Still, anxiety and dissatisfaction is high among BP retailers and distributors.

Jayendra Patel, operator of a BP-branded convenience store, the Umatilla Quick Stop, in Florida said in reports his sales are down nearly 50 percent in the wake of the oil spill.

"They've gone somewhere else. I can do nothing," Patel said. "We put signs out saying we are part of the community, that we have nothing to do directly with BP. It still doesn't help."

The drop in gasoline sales badly eroded traffic into his store, he said. He dropped prices, even on cigarettes and beer. "We make nothing on the gasoline, but it brings in the people," he said.

Some retailers and distributors have called on BP to convert its stations back to the popular Amoco brand, which it displaced after a takeover in 1998. "We have no intention to switch brands," BP spokesman Scott Dean said in published reports. "The BP brand is here to stay."

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