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The Guardian: The disappearing petrol station

United Kingdom; Mar 22, 2006
Oil companies are shutting petrol stations and even outsourcing accountancy services to Poland in a drive to cut costs despite making record profits.
Eleven forecourts a week are now being closed and the number owned by oil companies – rather than supermarkets or other retailers – fell by more than 300 last year, figures from the Energy Institute show. Its retail marketing survey reveals that Britain now has fewer forecourts than in 1914 – even though combined diesel and petrol sales set a record last year.
Oil companies complain that volumes might be high but margins are pitifully small and Shell has been putting pressure on its forecourt managers to take on “clusters” of stations to save costs. The company is also planning a huge new billing centre in Poland, in an unusual move that could lead to hundreds of job losses throughout its European operation.
The move surprised oil industry ex perts but Shell said it was part of a wider global move to develop regional centres for some back office functions.
“As a global company, operating in over 140 countries, we use service centres to provide support functions for our business. We continually keep the provision of these service centres under review to provide high quality and cost competitive support functions,” said a spokesman.
Final agreement is still being sought from Polish authorities about setting up an office in Krakow where 400 jobs will be created initially. Eventually 800 Polish staff could be hired to handle certain billing functions for continental Europe. Other countries were considered before Shell decided on Poland, partly on the basis of cost. Sources close to the company insisted no British jobs would be lost because the billing functions for the UK and Ireland are handled in Glasgow.
Both Shell and BP have announced record annual profits this year.

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