Shop Doctor: In the surgery this month - Applegreen Swaythling Road, Southampton
LOCATION: Swaythling, to the east of Southampton, has lots and lots of households with lots of motors, but only a few superstores, service stations and convenience stores. So, great potential for the Applegreen-branded service station near West End and close to a roundabout on the busy A27 that threads through the district.
No trouble locating this site with its two poles boldly showing illuminated fuel prices, Subway, Costa Express and the slogan 'We're always open'. The large canopy shows the Applegreen claim 'Low fuel prices, always'. The forecourt is large and there is a starter gate line of five islands of pumps in front of the shop.
To the left is a separate island with an airline and water point and separate vacuum the wastebin was full-to-overflowing! Behind that is the car wash unit and, at its entrance, a competitively priced menu of options. Further to the left is a jet-wash option.
The national broadcast media had just been reporting that superstores had reduced the cost of diesel to below £1 per litre. Applegreen were up to speed and their price for both unleaded and diesel was 99.8ppl. Reflecting the pulling power of cheap fuel, each of the pump islands was constantly busy during my visit.
The islands, topped by ads for various non-food offers, could have been cleaner. At the one I used, there was a loose pile of plastic gloves for customer use unfortunately the wind was scattering them around the site.
The site included a good number of designated parking spaces.
The shop front offers include a free-to-use ATM, a newspaper unit, screen wash and display of winter solid fuels.
Included on the fascia is the Applegreen logo and 'Southampton'. Just opposite the entrance is the Subway serve-over counter with a seating area, and to the left by the tills, the Costa Express unit. Neither were used during my time in the store. A range of traditional sandwiches is also available.
The shop is tight on space and stocks a very restricted range of grocery products really just the basics. Crisps, snacks, confectionery and soft drinks were available in abundance. An off licence range includes products displayed in a chiller.
Non-food lines (those currently featured at the pumps and earlier offers) were displayed in a number of different places in the store. I find it difficult to believe that the rate of sale of these products justifies all the space allocated.
The customer toilet was unusable as it had no light. It seems this may have been the case for a while. I wonder how difficult it is to replace a light bulb.
My transaction was completed in a convivial and efficient way.
Applegreen UK (previously known as Petrogas Group UK) was last year ranked fifth in the Forecourt Trader Top 50 Indies with 54 sites. They have developed trading partnerships with a number of major brands including Subway and Costa Express.
There are some big issues facing the forecourt sector, including the continuing fall in the price of fuel and the introduction of the Living Wage both could cost money and even jobs.
I realise that my report on this site is almost identical to my last report of a visit to Applegreen Uckfield (Forecourt Trader May 2014). This demonstrates a rigid application of a strategic blueprint, but I wonder if one size does always fit all.
Applegreen's 'Low fuel prices, always' tagline will continue to pump high volumes of fuel and this gives them a great opportunity to up-sell other goods to drivers. Hot coffee and food-to-go remain growth opportunities. A regular programme of special price and loyalty deals could be advertised on the forecourt. And to benefit from the consumer spending kick from lower fuel prices, a further examination of customer requirements should be undertaken.
Attention to retail standards is always a must and the forecourt should be kept tidy and the loo brought back to light!
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