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

Shop Doctor: in the surgery this month - Willesborough Service Station Hythe Road, Ashford, Kent

Location: This site is on the outskirts of Ashford, at a very busy junction, close to the M20.

Forecourt: The site is clearly visible at this traffic intersection. The pole sign highlights BP, Budgens, Costa Express, fuel prices (which are competitive), BP Ultimate, 'Collect Nectar Points here' and 24 hour off licence. It was busy at the time of my visit, with people taking advantage of those competitive fuel prices.

You can immediately tell it's a BP site as a big canopy sports the BP colours and logo, there are coordinating green bins and potted trees scattered about. It's all very smart and tidy.

There are 12 pumps with signage promoting BP Ultimate.

There's plenty of of parking including designated disabled bays. There are also designated spaces for electric vehicle charging but no kit yet.

Big banners say: 'We are now open 7 days a week/24 hours' as well as 'Discover Big Deals'.

Shop: There are the usual products stacked outside the shop plus flowers and small trolleys. Shop signage tells customers it is now a Budgens, open 24 hours. It's a very well laid out shop, but it should be considering it is new.

As you would expect from a Budgens, there is a very good fruit and veg section with items nicely displayed in wooden crates. Likewise there's an extensive chilled range; lots of smart chillers with doors on and signage about their energy efficiency. The chillers house an excellent 'dinner for tonight' section of fresh meat plus there are Cook freezers.

There are Ginsters and Urban Eat sandwiches and a Meal Deal flagged up at £4 or less. There's also a Rustlers branded microwave, Costa Express coffee machines and a hot food unit but it was mostly empty.

There are plenty of snacks dotted around including nuts to cash in on the protein craze.

There's a fresh bread section but some big gaps eg no brown crusty rolls.

The shop has some good offers such as 'Any 2 for £3' mix and match on pasta. There's an abundance of Budgens own brand including Discover the Choice as well as Euro Shopper promoting 'permanently low prices'.

There's a smart wood-effect floor to distinguish between the main shop and off licence area. Stacks of beer are on promotion.

Around the shop there were some boxes of product left on the floor, obscuring some of the shelves. There was one display area with clips on it, completely empty, hopefully waiting for stock.

Staff were very, very friendly. They asked if I had a Nectar card and told me about an extra points promotion.

There's no customer toilet.

An adjacent building, which used to be a workshop, is closed off but colourful photos of food have been put up to help make it look more attractive.

Prognosis: This site has had a very significant facelift. The new owner has invested in new petrol tanks, an extended canopy and extra pumps. Purchase of the site, the development including the newly refitted shop, cost the new owner £2.7m. There's also talk of turning the old workshop into a restaurant and perhaps putting a gym on the first floor. It's all a great boost for the area.

Diagnosis: The site has been a forecourt for many, many years. However, in recent times, supply problems meant it was more often than not without fuel.

The new-look site opened after considerable investment in December. It had always been a 24-hour site but the new owner is cleverly reminding people of the fact with plenty of '24-hour' and 'we are open' signage.

It seems there are some teething problems with merchandising but it is early days and hopefully staff will get on top of this. There was little evidence of local lines, hopefully come the summer there will be produce from the Garden of England?

A customer toilet would be a good addition.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 16 April 2018
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East124.89131.38121.90
East Midlands124.2463.90131.80121.24
London124.7562.90132.31122.04
North East123.61131.90121.00
North West123.8457.70130.24120.33
Northern Ireland122.81120.56
Scotland124.25131.22121.21
South East125.0961.90132.19122.34
South West124.4558.90129.28121.58
Wales124.0253.10129.58121.26
West Midlands123.74130.31120.97
Yorkshire & Humber123.50131.80120.56

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