GENERAL APPEARANCE: Deans Garage is situated on London Road on the edge of Marlborough and is, at present, the only garage in the town. It’s on an excellent site with a large frontage and has a well-positioned pole, distinctively branded ’Deans’.
Wow, just a week following the VAT increase and the prices displayed on the pole are the most expensive 133.9ppl for unleaded and 139.9ppl for diesel that I have seen yet.
FORECOURT: The four islands of pumps are covered by a large canopy. There are 24 nozzles but at each island at least two or three were covered and not available for use. Forecourt services air/water/vacuum/car wash were all out of action and looked as if they had been for some time.
From the colour of the pump and shop livery, the site had previously been an Esso service station but the absence of Deans branding beyond the pole, the number of services not available and the general poor condition of the forecourt gave the whole forecourt a rather forlorn appearance.
A bottled gas service may have been available but the cage was rather hidden to the side of the building and obscured by some branded soft drink chillers that had been removed from the shop.
A cage containing a limited supply of winter fuel and a dispenser offering copies of a free local newspaper were the only noticeable shop-front offers.
The only bright spot on the forecourt was the hand car wash offer (£5.95) and a few punters were having their cars cleaned.
SHOP: The shop fascia states in white out of Esso red ’Shop’ and ’Bridge Garage’.
One look at the shop interior indicated that not only was the forecourt forlorn but the shop also!
To the left, past an ’out of action’ ATM, is the news section. It includes a fair range of magazines, very few newspapers and loads of ’top shelf’ videos and DVDs spread across a number of shelves. In the centre of the shop stands a Cornetto soft ice cream machine. It had only one cornet in the holder and the dispensing nozzle was still smeared with old ice cream!
Shelving displayed a limited range of canned, bottles and packet groceries. Chiller cabinets offered a tight range of sandwiches, savoury snacks and soft drinks but no milk.
I found a Nescafé & Go hot drinks machine on a shelf near an old Bake ’n’ Bite display unit. But the unit was being used as a filing cabinet plenty of business papers inside it but not a hot snack to be seen! Key convenience store ranges off licence and fresh produce were not stocked.
PROGNOSIS: Consumer spending on fuel is a challenge and may yet get more difficult as higher prices bite. On the other hand convenience store spend is headed in the right direction, and is growing at a faster rate than the overall UK grocery market.
DIAGNOSIS: Most forecourt retailers start with a strong nationally-recognised fuel brand. Shop offerings have been enhanced by partnerships with major symbol group brands. The combined offer of a strong fuel and shop brand is not a guarantee of survival but retailers that reject this trend and those that do not have a ’unique selling proposition’ do seem to be suffering. Deans Garage may be a case in point. An unbranded expensive fuel offering plus a poor shop that does not offer the main convenience store ranges is almost certainly in a precarious position.
PRESCRIPTION: Deans Garage is in an ideal location and it is currently the only filling station in Marlborough. It should be exploiting these advantages to the full. But apparently a new filling station is planned for the area, and it may open later this year.
So now is the time for the owner of Deans Garage to get his business in order. Fuel prices should be re-examined; forecourt services such as air and water should be made good and kept in working order; the debris around the forecourt needs to be cleaned up; the shop should be given a spring clean; an active ATM service should be a priority; they need to stock ranges tailored to the known needs of the motorist and convenience store shopper... The list goes on but the owner needs to act now otherwise I fear time is running out for this enterprise.