On the north west outskirts of Corby, at a roundabout, is the new Southern Gateway Business Park. Currently it only has three completed developments a Premier Inn, a Beefeater restaurant and my target, the award-winning Brobot site.
Clearly visible from the roundabout, the large site is stunning. The vast canopy is curved steeply at the road side, then elegantly slopes away for the length of the 'starter gate' line of pumps. The roof line of the shop mirrors the curved line of the canopy. The canopy is branded Jet and the underside includes bright blue lights that must make it stand out at night.
Space is not a problem and the four pump islands have room for cars to refuel comfortably side by side. There is a promotional A-type board at each island and the pumps are topped with offers.
Fuel prices are average. But during my visit midday on a Monday trade was slow.
There is a separate HGV pump island with AdBlue not used at all during my visit.
Forecourt services include a car wash, air, water and vacuum.
There are a good number of designated parking spaces some at the front of the shop.
Costa banners and a large sign promoting '10% off shop goods with £40 fuel' are located at the perimeter closest to the roundabout. The ground around the edge of the site has been planted with a range of shrubs.
At the front of the shop is a free-to-use ATM, a display of flowers, winter fuels and a Calor Gas service. A notice gives details of the Brobot Customer Care hotline. There is an empty unit at the far end of the shop building.
The 3,000sq ft shop is branded Londis. It feels massive with its high black ceiling and rather stark lighting. The curve design from the canopy is continued inside with aisle ends and till counter. The tills are located behind anti-bandit security screens perhaps okay for night shopping security, but for the rest of the day they're not very customer friendly.
The two Costa Express and Bake & Bite units are to the left, just by the spacious but dull seating area. There are plenty of tables, chairs and sofas in the area which has free wifi and three working TVs.
One of the Costa Express units was not working.
The customer toilets were generally in good order, but one of the gents' urinals needed attention.
The shop aisles are wide and most c-store categories are stocked. There were a number of promotions but nothing excited or stood out for me. The produce was pre-packed and would look far more appetising with the use of hessian and blackboard notices
A range of own brand SuperValu products are stocked.
Greenfield development Southern Gateway, which opened in May 2012, represents a massive commitment and investment for Brobot. Built and opened during the height of the recession, it demonstrates a great commitment to the future.
It must be a bitter disappointment to Brobot that the additional shop remains vacant. It would be a significant benefit to the overall site if a destination business opened such as a butcher, a hairdresser or fitness business.
The excitement of the canopy design led me to expect an interesting shop with something beyond the usual. But the layout and offering did not provide this. It's a spacious standard c-store but lacking in theatre.
Create regular in-store theatre and other activity such as: support Jet's 1954 free prize draw. Lower the qualifying fuel purchase to £30 for the 10% discount on shop purchases.
Make sure the Southern Gateway Facebook page is current and post offers regularly. Encourage communications from customers.
Consider introducing a 'click & collect' parcel service.
Introduce a car wash and coffee loyalty scheme, also meal deals. Post details on Facebook and circulate them to local businesses.
Reduce the random piles of Londis leaflets circulating them to local businesses and homes would be better. Introduce a customer suggestion box and a questionnaire.There's still lots that could be done to help boost shop sales further.