Few BP stations remain in the area and of the ones that do, none have reported a loss of business since oil began gushing into the gulf. Still, some residents are bypassing BP stations to buy fuel and food at other location to boycott the company.
“Several people have said they are boycotting,” said Greg Pate, who owns a Clay County painting business and says he has avoided buying BP gas. “I’ve caught myself needing to stop, but not stopping at a BP and going to a Shell or a Chevron”
Pate was buying gas at the Shell Station on Quintard Avenue Wednesday. He said his family and a few of his employees have committed to a BP boycott. Pate added that he worries about the negative repercussions of such a boycott.
Representatives for the convenience store industry do too. They say such a boycott will harm local entrepreneurs more than it will harm the giant oil company, especially for the single-store operations, which account for 56 percent of the independently-owned gas stations in the nation.
“Those are the ones that are most vulnerable,” said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing. “They can’t survive a downturn.”
According to Lenard, the association has been tracking sales reports from BP-branded stations across the country since the leak began. He said in some cases BP stations have lost as much as 50 percent of their business and in other cases they have lost none.
According to the Association for Convenience and Petroleum Marketing, most of the 115,340 convenience stores nationwide that sold gasoline in 2009 were owned by small business owners, and just 2 percent were owned by major oil companies. However, about half of all stores are branded with a major oil company’s name, meaning the owners of those stores have a contract to purchase a certain amount of fuel from them, but operate independently.
BP and the other major oil companies that brand stations also sell fuel to non-branded stations. So boycotters could go to a station that is not clearly affiliated with any major oil company and still purchase BP-branded gas.
“It won’t achieve what you hope it achieves, which is to hurt the oil company,” Lenard said. “BP will be selling this fuel regardless.”
Brian Young and his family’s company, Young Oil Co. of Piedmont purchases and distributes oil to local gas stations and owns the Grub Mart stores in Anniston and Jacksonville. Years ago those stores carried the Amoco brand and later bore the BP name, but they stopped carrying branded gasoline long before the recent crisis.
He said a boycott might have a minimal impact on BP’s business, but could have a more severe impact on the local economy.
“I feel real sure BP would survive longer than the individual that owned the station,” Young said.
One of the BP stores nearest Anniston can be found on Alabama 46 in Cleburne County. Manager Laura Cobb said she is watching the store’s sales numbers closely, but hasn’t been able to trace any losses to anger over the leak. She said that the economy and seasonal declines are more likely the culprits behind a recent lag in business.
“We have seen a decline in the past two weeks, but I do not feel it is because of the oil spill,” Cobb said.
Cobb said she believes most people think boycotting BP is an ineffective way to express their displeasure over the crisis. She may be right. Some of the other shoppers at the Shell on Quintard said they are not supporting a boycott of any kind.
Randle Deramus was at the station with his 18-year-old son Wyatt Deramus, and both men said they had not heard of and do not plan on participating in a boycott of BP.
“It would be crazy for people to do a boycott,” said Randle Deramus. “You just have to accept what happened, go on and try to fix it.”
Andrew Fisher of Anniston pumped fuel into his Toyota Prius Hybrid at the Station Wednesday. He said he has heard rumors of a boycott of BP, but had no plans to participate because he doesn’t blame the company for the leak.
“The way I see it, crap happens,” Fisher said. “I don’t see it as their fault or anyone else’s fault. It just happens.”
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.