Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community

In the surgery this month Bexhill Service Station, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

12 January, 2010
Page 13 

GENERAL APPEARANCE: This Jet forecourt and Spar shop on the Barnhorn Road at Bexhill-on-Sea only opened a couple of months ago. The site had been derelict for five years.

FORECOURT: The Jet-branded pole is clearly visible and the illuminated prices show that this service station sells cheap fuel some 3ppl less than other main road sites.

All the action is at one end of the site. The pumps and shop are close together. The four pump islands are protected by a canopy in corporate Jet yellow and blue.

Access to the pumps was good but there's a very tight exit from the pump nearest the entrance to the shop. The pumps were in constant use, drivers no doubt attracted by the competitive prices.

At present there are no other motorist services but I expect that the owners will develop the large unused area of the forecourt. It looks like an ideal space for a car wash.

In front of the shop there's a newspaper display unit (almost sold out), a display of flowers and a well-used ATM.

SHOP: The Spar shop is brand new. There was a little 'making good' work going on, as is usual following a new build, but the entrance did not seem as inviting as it should.

I wanted a 'meal deal' or some confectionery, a sandwich and a soft drink but the sections were not easy to locate. The confectionery and crisp sections strangely not in the main impulse aisle leading to the tills were being restocked and there were quite a few empty boxes lying around.

Spar-branded products and promotions were available as was a good off licence section. I suspect they have a problem with the supply of newspapers but hopefully their news wholesaler will get that sorted as a sales pattern is established.

Milk is a vital distress purchase item and the display seemed far too small to satisfy demand.

I am not sure the display of Spar extra value essential products at the store's entrance is the best use of that valuable display area.

The customer toilet, although not signed, was in good order. The staff were friendly and helpful.

PROGNOSIS: I am sure Sultan Hayat, the Bexhill Service Station owner, thought long and hard before committing considerable resource to the conversion of a site, derelict for five years, to a new forecourt and shop. He deserves great credit and just a few weeks since opening the signs are good. Plenty of motorists refuelling and many people also using the shop.

But this is only phase one and the site will again move forward if a car wash facility is opened.

DIAGNOSIS: It is reported that Sultan Hayat wanted to turn a disused space into something of value and use to the community. Certainly his chosen business partners Jet and Spar give great emphasis to their role in the community. Jet with the tag line 'fuelling the local community' and Spar with its ongoing support for the NSPCC and current 'rooted in the community' campaign.

PRESCRIPTION: There is a trend for consumers to do more shopping locally especially for food and particularly fresh food. And this opportunity should be exploited. Customers keep a business alive and Bexhill Spar should work hard to establish itself as a community destination store.

The Spar leaflets should be distributed door to door. And the opening of a car wash is an ideal excuse to launch a 'community day', perhaps supporting the Spar chosen charity, the NSPCC.

Prior to this activity it would be good for the store to review progress to date. Is every shelf, display unit and SKU meeting customer needs and wants, and paying its way? Are all key selling lines stocked? Review in-store signage and introduce 'meal deals'. Can the fresh food offer be improved? Can fresh baked bread and local products be easily sourced? How can the forecourt and shop take full advantage of the holiday trade the population increases significantly during holiday periods.

These decisions will be big and of great importance to the future success of the business. So it will be important to bring together the collective intelligence of Jet and Spar wholesaler Capper to help.

Sultan Hayat and his team deserve such support and I wish the venture great success.





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