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Sales figures signal a decline, and OPIS offers NACS members a free trial to track fuel volume.

March 23, 2020

By Brian Norris

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Fuel margins are at record highs due to the massive decline in prices at the spot and wholesale levels; however, with much of the general public practicing social distancing and working from home where possible, most experts agree a decline in retail fuel sales is inevitable.

As of 10:30 a.m. EDT on March 20, nationwide average gasoline margins were at 81.8 cents/gallon, up 67 cents/gallon from the same time in 2019. In the western part of the United States they are even higher, seeing gasoline margins at approximately $1.08/gallon.

While fuel retailers are benefitting from the sudden drop in their costs, sales figures are starting to signal the decline many expect to see. COVID-19 impacted the West Coast of the United States first, and demand figures are starting to bear that out in the data. According to OPIS Demand for the week ended March 14, national gasoline sales volumes were down 2.4% from the same week last year. Yet Western volumes were down more than 8%—perhaps the “canary in the coal mine” that indicates what’s to come, and all of this happening before most of the drastic measures were enacted to limit the spread of the virus.

Insight into the impact COVID-19 is having on overall fuel demand is a critical piece of information for fuel retailers to fully understand and navigate the current environment. To help, OPIS is offering NACS members a free four-week trial to OPIS Demand, a weekly publication that tracks same-store volumes submitted directly by more than 15,000 fuel stations across the United States. Available on a national, regional and state level (where available), fuel retailers can see a clear picture of how volumes are being impacted across the industry, allowing them to adjust strategy and better plan for the uncertainty to come.

Brian Norris is the executive director–retail data and product management, OPIS By IHS Markit.