So I thought it timely to visit a new Budgens store. This Peregrine Retail site opened this spring. It's a new-build on the A339 almost equidistant (about eight miles) from Basingstoke and Newbury
From the busy A339 the site is clearly visible and makes an impact. The pole prices are illuminated and the large Shell- branded canopy helps identify the service station. The large site is shared with a servicing and MOT business, a used car sales firm and Nelsons Diner (a '50s retro American diner). Although each business has its own designated parking area, there are a lot of vehicles coming and going with many left haphazardly.
All the pumps (three islands, 24 nozzles) were in use when I arrived. Fuel prices were average and the pumps were in good working order. Pump-top promotions featured at each island.
A car-wash system was supported by advertising, promoting a loyalty scheme. Various posters and signs around the forecourt advertised services and offers including Hermes parcels and Costa Coffee. There was some litter around the forecourt.
Newspapers were available at the entrance to the shop, and bins displayed solid fuels and screen wash. The ATM is free to use.
This Budgens of Kingsclere store looked impressive; large (over 2,500sq ft), bright, well signed, modern shelving, chillers and refrigeration. Plus a great range of convenience store product and service categories. But, my first quick walk around the shop floor was worrying. I thought the two Costa Express units could be cleaner. There were a few holes in the produce display and there were no bananas, although a full box was on the floor. A cage of branded wrapped bread was blocking both the aisle and access to one of the Cook cabinets. A shopping trolley full of empty packaging was obstructing access to the sandwich display and an open carton was on the shelf by the Lottery play station. The floor around the flower display was wet and a potential hazard.
Apart from one on a till, there was not a member of staff to be seen!
I liked the comprehensive stock range, the good number of price promotions, the Halloween display, some Christmas items, a number of SuperValu own brand products and a good range of locally produced bottled beers.
Free-standing floor display units included 'Pocket Money Toys', Flamingo accessories and many, many more. There are almost too many and I wondered if the impact for individual stands is lost?
The toilet with baby changer was in good condition but what a shame that the cleaning rota had not been completed for two days!
The one member of staff in the shop was pleasant and efficient.
Peregrine Retail now operates five sites in the South West and Kingsclere is one of two opened this year. It would seem that sites are selected with some care, require a significant redevelopment and have the potential both as a fuel and shop location. They are partnered with a major fuel brand in Shell, and the aspirational symbol group Budgens.
The mantra for all c-store operators should be to keep developing their businesses by understanding all their customers' needs.
A delivery from Budgens that coincided with my visit was probably the reason for the lack of staff on the shop floor. But what a shame that part of the store had been left in a mess. Surely major deliveries are expected and staff should be managed accordingly? Maybe more staff are needed on delivery days?
Customer service is vital and if you make public tangible evidence of service (the cleaning rota in the customer toilet) it must be kept up to date.
Budgens of Kingsclere is a great business that ticks a lot of important boxes, but there's still some work to be done.