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In the surgery this month – Newport Service Station, Swindon

01 February, 2010
Page 13 

GENERAL APPEARANCE: In the centre of Old Town, Swindon, the Newport Service Station close to a large Co-op supermarket is easy to see thanks to its attractive Harvest Energy branding.

 

FORECOURT: The pole had a broken bottom panel and gave the impression of a site with a rather forlorn look.

Under the canopy that needed a good clean the four pump islands each allow easy access. The price of the fuel was competitive.

Forecourt services include a jet wash, air and Calor gas. The screen around the jet wash has a number of broken panels. A potential health and safety issue?

 

SHOP: The fascia is unbranded and just states 'Shop'.

The woodwork around the entrance door is beyond needing a coat of paint and needs replacing. The shop floor was a mess the result of wet snowy feet and the cardboard that had been put down to help soak up the snow was just a sodden mess.

The overall impression from the entrance is that this is not so much a shop as some shelving and random collection of products: some car care lines, winter fuel, a greetings card floor unit, a limited range of grocery products, a display unit of an artisan-made jam (with a tag line 'made with love'), some floor units for crisps and snacks, confectionery and cigarettes.

Many key forecourt convenience store categories are not covered. And I was unable to buy milk, a newspaper or anything I wanted for lunch. In the end I settled for an (expensive) chocolate bar. But after paying for this and my fuel, I saw a few sandwiches in one of the drinks' cabinets. The shop was so dismally lit that I had originally missed them!

There is not a customer toilet but the one member of staff in the shop allowed me to use the rather grim staff toilet.

 

PROGNOSIS: How unusual to find a major city centre forecourt site not taking full advantage of its great location and the proven consumer need for a convenience store.

The store owner took one strategic decision some four years ago when he became the first dealer to sign up to the Harvest Energy package. But he stopped short of going into partnership with a symbol group. Perhaps the thinking was that it was not possible to compete with the Co-op next door.

 

DIAGNOSIS: The Newport Service Station is in a good location with easy vehicle access. Pump prices are competitive.

The forecourt meets local needs with its offering of Harvest Energy fuels at competitive prices but what about the shop? It seems almost an insult to attract drivers with a good forecourt deal and then let them down with such a poor shop.

 

PRESCRIPTION: What a positive decision back in 2006 to change to Harvest Energy. The resulting fresh green, white and blue livery and competitive retail prices no doubt quite radically changed the appearance of the site and helped to drive fuel volumes.

It may then have been a step too far to refit the shop but the matter is now urgent if the potential of the site is to be developed.

It is often said that 'retail is detail' and it's true! Newport Service Station urgently needs some attention to retail detail.

Firstly, the site needs to protect its fuel volume. I am sure Harvest Energy would encourage the immediate replacement of all broken panels and the cleaning of the canopy and pumps.

Secondly, the shop needs a major rethink and refit. This will need time and money but, as I often report, all symbol group wholesalers are ready and willing to help. They would know what range to stock to help maximise sales from such a location. On many of the Harvest Energy sites, Mace is the chosen shop affinity group. Surely Palmer & Harvey would give some advice to this site in Swindon?

But as a minimum, an urgent examination of current shop sales would indicate slow sellers that should not be re-ordered.

A strategic introduction of key 'distress purchase' lines and a 'meal deal' offering plus a short-term improvement in the shop woodwork, décor and lighting should all improve sales.

It would demonstrate a pride in the business that currently seems to be missing.