Forecourt Trader
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In the surgery this month - Gillhams Service Station, Midhurst, West Sussex

01 May, 2009
Page 13 

GENERAL APPEARANCE: Gillhams Service Station, a BP forecourt and Nisa Local Essentials convenience store, opened last November. The enterprise is on a grand scale and all the equipment and buildings are new but in keeping with the old market town environment.

 

FORECOURT: The forecourt is large and a massive canopy covers four islands of pumps (32 nozzles). The approach to, and space at each pump, is extensive and cars, vans and even lorries had no problem refuelling. Prices were competitive (about 1ppl above supermarket prices). Both a jet wash and impressive-looking car wash are available. Air, water and a vacuum are available as are a number of designated parking spaces.

Up front shop services included an ATM, winter fuels, newspapers and flowers.

 

SHOP: Wow - what a shop! Well designed with extensive use of refrigeration and chillers, it is clean, bright, airy and offers an extensive convenience range. Open 6.30am to 11pm, it has a Bake & Bite shop within the shop.

The fascia above the door reads 'Essentials at Midhurst' and inside there is a well-stocked chiller with great-looking fresh produce, much of it prepacked under the Nisa Today's Heritage Select logo. On the opposite side of the aisle, short-life products include prepacked meats from a local family butcher.

The off licence section is comprehensive and well presented. Many wines and beers are offered chilled and a number of beers and lagers were on offer by the case.

The grocery section offered a good range of branded and Heritage own brand lines. A number of special offers were available embracing most of the main convenience store categories.

The large Bake & Bite food-to-go area is strategically positioned close to the tills. It includes a preparation and baking area, serve-over counter for hot and cold snacks, a separate hot drinks area, a bread display and sandwich chiller. All the food is prepared in-store.

The customer toilet was excellent! Why is this so rare?

The many store staff were busy but efficient.

 

PROGNOSIS: This store bears testament to a progressive owner working in partnership with a major symbol group, who is prepared to invest heavily in their business. They deserve great success.

 

DIAGNOSIS: A current mantra from the leaders of the symbol group sector is that independent stores are at the heart of their community. And they believe that retailers can increase their trade if they understand and meet the needs of their community.

From the stream of vehicles refuelling at Gillhams Service Station, it is clear that the business is meeting a demand. It is also working hard to turn fuel-only customers into shop customers and has invested heavily in a large food-to-go offering. Good for passing trade but is there a further opportunity in building trade with the community of Midhurst?

 

PRESCRIPTION: This is a very good store and, if you are in the area, worth a visit.

There is probably no need to remind this retailer or Nisa that constant development is the key to progressing an enterprise.

I believe this store has been open for six months so perhaps a good time to review progress thus far. Analysis of sales data should enable slow selling lines to be identified and eliminated. Staff 'customer service' training should be a constant

I believe there is an opportunity to support more local lines - and to identify them in store. It would be good to see some generic Nisa point of sale material supporting local products.

The Nisa Local promotion leaflet available in store shows a vast range of promoted lines. A challenge for retailers is to effectively support them all.

I wonder if the leaflet is distributed to households in the catchment area of the store?

Nisa is to be praised and encouraged for the introduction of its 'Making a Difference Locally' campaign and I suggest that Essentials at Midhurst should identify a local community project that they can support with the campaign's help. It would show great social responsibility and may help the business to become a local destination store and forecourt.