Regional gas prices generally differ by a dime

PUNXSUTAWNEY — So, how do you like the price of gas in the Punxsutawney area so far?

Once again, there is a 10-cent difference in the price of gas sold in Brookville versus Punxsutawney.

Several people who were filling up at Punxsy area gas stations/fast-food stores such as Sheetz, Uni-Mart, Kwik-Fill and Saterlee’s Sunoco continue to wonder why the gas is always 10 cents cheaper in DuBois and Brookville than in Punxsy.

“Our strategy is to be matched with the price of our lowest competitor,” said Peggy Faulk, Sheetz regional director of operations for northern and western Pennsylvania. “That’s our philosophy that we live by in all of our markets. Right now in DuBois, we have a competitor who continually goes down in its retail, and we’re going to match them.
“This has been going on a long time in DuBois,” she said. “Over the years, the people in Punxsutawney probably have said, ‘Gas is always cheaper in DuBois.’”

Also, Faulk said Interstate 80 and its many travelers add to the competition to the towns located along the highway.

Faulk said DuBois has four Sheetz stores, and there are many stations in Brookville, such as Flying J, Truckstops of America, Sunoco and Country Fair.

“There are a lot of retail outlets for a small area like Brookville,” Faulk said, adding that the pricing is based on the interstate traffic coming from the exits.

Currently, Sheetz is planning to renovate 30 stores per year, which will take until 2017. The goal is to make each store look similar to a restaurant.

“We use the low price on gas to bring customers into our store to buy drinks; our future is in food, along with our profit,” Faulk said.

“Sheetz is a retail operator, and we don’t own a refinery, but we buy petroleum, which has already been refined,” she said.

Faulk said the refineries determine what the price of gas is going to be. Whatever price the refinery charges, Sheetz passes it along to the customer, she said.

Most of the gas purchased by Sheetz comes from Canada, Faulk said, and over the last 10 years, the company’s price margin has remained at 10 cents a gallon on average.

Faulk said out of that margin, the company must pay credit card fees, which are quite a bit, considering 70-72 percent of all gas is purchased on a credit card.

The fees Sheetz pays to the credit card companies run about six cents per gallon, Faulk said.

Sometimes, banks offer the debit side of their cards for free, Faulk said.

“The debit side is less expensive because it’s more immediate cash, because it’s not being run through the credit card holding companies,” she said. “Those fees are all determined by the banks, not by us, the retailer.”

Faulk said credit card purchases cost Sheetz 10 cents per gallon.
“The difference in what we pay the refinery and charge our customers is our margin of profit, which averages about 10 cents per gallon,” which is not uncommon, she said.

Most of the big-name gasoline providers have left western Pennsylvania, Faulk said, and stations that pump gas for its customers are considered to be a point of difference for them.