FORECOURT: The forecourt is impressive. The striking large, light and high Esso-branded canopy also carries the message 'open 24 hours'. It covers a starter-gate line of five pump islands and connects to the shop but includes a clear section which helps to keep the area light and bright.
All the pumps were clean and in good working order. The retail price for fuel was competitive and could be further reduced by 2ppl for holders of a Tout's Signature loyalty scheme card.
Forecourt services occupied a large area and included an air and water unit, two car wash and two jet wash bays, and two vacuum units.
Around the edge of the site were a number of banners promoting various offers and the benefits of having a Tout's Signature card. At the entrance to the site was a 'Recruiting Now' banner.
In front of the shop are designated parking spaces and a free-to-use ATM plus the usual containers of screen wash and bags of kindling, logs and solid fuels.
The star of the show was the spectacular display of flowers and containers of flowering bulbs supplied by a local nursery/florist. All looked in great condition, were attractively priced and wrapped and imaginatively displayed on crates.
SHOP: The shop fascia in corporate colour states 'Tout's Budgens'. The entrance area is impressive, light and spacious, leading to a great- looking produce section to the left, two Costa Express units and food-to-go in the centre and to the right, aisles leading to the Subway counter and till area. But, before shopping, my attention was attracted to a collection unit (similar to the Waitrose scheme) for Tout's pink tokens in support of two local charities and a notice board. This was headed 'Local Treasures' and gave brief details on a map of a number of local suppliers. Full marks for this as it's a very imaginative way of informing customers of Tout's special relationship with some artisan producers. But points were deducted due to some of those special products not really being promoted at their point of display. Bold 'Local Treasures' pos with some details of the maker would surely help to increase sales.
I did find and buy some of the Pullin's Bakery artisan breads and Lye Cross Farm cheese that was on offer. Both bread and cheese were great value and tasted great.
One of the Costa units was out of order and both needed a clean.
The Subway area included clean and tidy seating.
Customers' meal missions are well catered for and the large Cook frozen food section offers many options. In addition to some good value wines, the off licence section also includes local beers and ciders.
One unit end features an excellent range of 'free from' products and most of the aisle ends feature promotions.
The customer toilet facility was okay but the top of the toilet itself needed a clean. The cleaning rota on the back of the door had been completed for the previous day but no entries on the day of my visit!
The staff at the till area were all smartly dressed and friendly. I was asked if I had a Tout's Signature Card but on replying 'no', I wasn't offered an application form or a pink token so helped myself to one from a jar on the counter.
PROGNOSIS: Tout's Budgens at Nailsea is an impressive forecourt and shop and it deserves its prize-winning status. Shopping there is a pleasant and interesting experience.
Tout's is a family enterprise with a number of stores and exhibits the entrepreneurial flair of many independents the business is the result of a significant investment, lots of innovation and perhaps above all, a dedication to service.
DIAGNOSIS: Nailsea has a number of supermarkets. Tesco, with a forecourt, is geographically the nearest competition to Tout's. The Tesco announcement of its takeover bid for Booker is part of the reason for my stealth check visit. I wanted to see how these two businesses may be affected by the merger. I guess the Tesco will not change but will Budgens Nailsea? Perhaps more competitively priced groceries, a greater range of fresh and own- brand products. Time will tell but what should they do now?
PRESCRIPTION: Put simply, keep up the good work.
Build on the Tout's heritage and family name; further develop and promote the 'Local Treasures' range of local artisan suppliers; continue to develop the Tout's Signature Card and use of social media; build on the support for local charities.
Maintain the very best store and staff standards and the Tout's company maxim 'service, quality & value without compromise'.