Traffic is starting to build up on Robe’s main road.
- Robe has only one gas station left
- Small operators have been forced out of a “marginal” market.
- 15,000 holidaymakers are expected to reach Robe in January
The city is an annual coastal mecca for thousands of vacationers as school students put their pens down for the year and families hit the road for a summer getaway.
But this year, the city only has one gas station, and pressure is building at the pump to meet the needs of a growing population.
Mark Ramsay, owner of Robe Auto and Marine, said the city had four gas stations about 30 years ago.
“But now, we’re the last ones standing,” Ramsay said.
The site of the former Caltex petrol station has been empty since the business closed about six months ago.
Mr Ramsay said family operators were being forced out by a rise in ‘mega service stations’ with an array of fast food outlets and attached outlets.
“It’s a very narrow and marginal business,” he said.
“We’re operating on very tight profit margins to the point where people are shocked when I tell them how much we actually make on a gallon of petrol.”
He said there were no more small gas stations being built.
“Massive hours are needed every week to keep the doors open,” he said.
“Some people would say it’s better to buy a dairy—you might be working fewer hours.”
Pressure on the pump
Robe is home to approximately 1,500 permanent residents, but the town welcomes up to 15,000 additional visitors during the summer season.
Mr Ramsay said he and his staff had been preparing for the past eight months for when they would become the only venues in the city selling fuel to the public.
He said he started by looking at statistics for his business and the former Caltex station.
“I wanted to understand exactly how much fuel the city uses on busy days,” he said.
He said he also researched the nature of sales and the type of customers.
“A lot of customers from the other site were there for fried food and air, so when you take those customers out, we can pretty much accommodate the extra demand,” he said.
Opportunities and expectations
Mr Ramsay said being the last remaining fuel destination in the busy holiday city was “a double-edged sword”.
“People think it’s a great opportunity – to have a captive market, but while we see that as a positive, it also puts a lot of pressure on the team and means we have to meet expectations day in and day out,” he said.
He said he had expanded and remodeled the station forecourt to accommodate extra traffic, invested in an additional 20,000-litre fuel tank, expanded the service area and hired more staff.
“We will be increasing our trading hours from 6am to 8pm, seven days, and we also have a 24-hour fuel machine,” he said.
“I’ll be here as a traffic cop, making sure everything runs smoothly.
“We are very confident that we will be able to fill everyone’s tanks.”