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The development of the retail petroleum industry in the UK has received only sporadic attention by academics. This is curious, as the industry has vital importance to modern commerce. The industry is usually thought of as an oligarchy, with a small number of companies controlling the production and movement of products through vertical integration. However, there is evidence of change in the industry: there has been a significant number of exchanges of retailing sites between the major entities themselves, and a rise in the number and influence of competitors. These constitute both multiple retailers such as supermarket chains and, at the ‘competitive fringe’, a rise in the number of smaller independents. This paper identifies the historical changes and analyses the factors underlying them.

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