Forecourt Trader
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In the surgery this month - Texaco, Hornsey Rd, Islington, London

30 June, 2009
Page 13 

GENERAL APPEARANCE: On the busy Hornsey Road, just a stone's throw away from Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, is my stealth check target - a Texaco filling station and shop. The Texaco-branded pole is fairly visible and boldly announces that the site offers a car wash, off licence and the National Lottery.

 

FORECOURT: The whole of the site is located under a large block of flats. Headroom is limited so the result is rather dark and gloomy and, despite it being a bright day, electric lighting was required.

Access to the pump islands is adequate and each is topped by non-food offers. All the pumps and nozzles were clean and in good working order. Fuel prices were some 2-3ppl higher than local competition but trade was steady.

Forecourt services include Calor Gas, air, water and vacuum. Unfortunately the car wash, which was boldly promoted 'top of the list' on the pole, was not working.

In front of the shop was a home fuel bin containing winter fuel and a rather uninspiring stack of disposable barbecues.

Parking space for shop customers only is very limited.

SHOP: The shop has no fascia brand and visibility into the store through the windows is hampered by the backs of shelving that face you and fill a lot of the windows.

The interior of this small shop is bright and clean and gives a good first impression.

There is limited space for the off-licence section but a range of wines and beers are chilled. The newspaper and magazine section was a bit of a mess with many papers 'displayed' on the shop floor. The hot food/drinks-to-go offer comprises a Pot Noodle hot water machine, a microwave and a Nescafé drinks machine.

A full range of confectionery, snacks and soft drinks are available but a very limited range of grocery products. There was no produce or bake-off so a 'fresh' offering is missing.

There are no customer toilets. The two members of staff in the store were friendly and provided good customer service.

 

PROGNOSIS: A constant development programme is essential to help drive revenue and profit. Forecourt formats and services are still evolving and many forecourt c-stores are now leading-edge retailers. To be inactive in these areas can be detrimental to the future of the business.

When it opened I expect that this Texaco site and shop was a good example of best practice. But the market and consumers' expectations have moved on!

DIAGNOSIS: By necessity, most operators are savvy to the benefits of combined forecourt and shop operations.

Most garage operators aim to increase the forecourt trade with motorists (refuelling, car wash and other services) and shop trade -sales to both fuel-only customers and to potential customers living within the catchment area.

But Texaco Hornsey Road may be missing out on both.

Pump prices are at the top end of the market and the potential disappointment to motorists attracted by the pole promise of a car wash - only to find there isn't one - is extremely off-putting.

The shop is small and its tight range seems targeted to motorists' requirements and is not capitalising on the hundreds of neighbourhood shoppers that must live within 500 metres of the store - many in the flats just above the site!

 

PRESCRIPTION: As a priority, the management needs to sort out the car wash situation - at least by removing the offer from the pole.

They need to rethink the shop offer too. Can more sales space be found? And could they incorporate the defunct car wash space into the shop sales area?

They could obscure the backs of the display units with some form of screen. And invest in a newspaper display unit.

They could also exploit the potential of Arsenal match-day crowds. And find out what shop-only customers want and what top-up products would establish increased shopper relevance for them. An ATM, bread, milk, newspapers and magazines, cigarettes, alcohol, snacks and a basic grocery range should all be reviewed. They could request specific help from their wholesaler and local suppliers. Or consider a partnership with a symbol group.

Finally, they could re-establish the enterprise as a local shop for locals with the use of a leaflet drop.