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

Shop Doctor: In the surgery this month - Three Elm Service Station Tonbridge, Kent

Location:

Off the A26 between Hadlow and Tonbridge.

Forecourt:

My visit to Three Elm was in the evening and the site looked stunning thanks to the BP colours on the canopy and well-lit forecourt. And although it was a dark, rainy night the site was actually very busy.

There is a separate HGV lane and a Red Diesel pump, which looked to be out of order.

There is a lot of signage highlighting BP's Ultimate premium fuel as well as signage promoting the BPme loyalty card. Unfortunately bollard covers directly outside the forecourt shop encouraged people to 'earn a little summer treat' which was rather out of date.

The 'buy time' jet wash looked particularly impressive, comprising a sturdy, transparent canopy with four roomy bays underneath. And despite it being dark and rainy, it was still being used by a van driver.

Piled outside the shop are loads of bags of coal and logs which did look a bit haphazard and untidy.

There are plenty of parking spaces.

Shop:

The Southern Co-op store has a big Welcome sign over the door and the name 'Three Elm'.

As my visit was just before Christmas, there were loads of seasonal lines including mini Christmas trees and potted plants and stacks of chocolates all around the store.

It's a very pleasant shopping environment thanks to wide aisles and very good lighting.

There is an abundance of Co-op-branded goods.

There is a good food-to-go range in the chiller but it had been well shopped and it could have done with a tidy up. Similarly the soft drinks section had been well shopped and needed facing up. Signs said high caffeine drinks would not be sold to under-16s.

There is a very good kids' confectionery section, chock full of eye-catching products.

I was impressed that they still had fresh, uncut bread at the time of my visit. And also that the hot food-to-go counter was well stocked, with a good choice of tasty looking paninis and pastries. There was an offer of any Café Gusto product and a Lavazza coffee for a fiver.

Staff were extremely pleasant and very helpful. A sign at the till said that the 5p plastic bag charge was donated to local good causes.

There is a toilet but you have to access this from outside.

The first thing I noticed was that there was a traffic cone inside what it was there for I didn't know. Also the toilet floor was wet but it was raining however the toilet also smelt of wee. There was a soap spray but it was empty and it could have done with an air freshener.

Prognosis:

This site was recently the subject of a £2m investment featuring a new BP forecourt and 280sqm Co-op shop (which is about 2.5 times the space of the previous store). Since the redevelopment, the owners the George Hammond Group have reported strong growth in both fuel volume and shop sales.

Diagnosis:

Southern Co-op is expanding and that expansion includes forecourts. The company says that by joining them, retailers get the best of both worlds the Co-op brand and Southern Co-op support, but also the chance to remain an independent.

Prescription:

My only real criticism of this site is the gaps on the shelves around the store that shouldn't really have been there.

I know it's a busy site and the sales figures prove this but that's the reason why gaps need to be filled quickly and products brought forward.

In addition, the manager needs to keep an eye on the promotional material and get BP to supply seasonally-appropriate material to promote its loyalty BPme card.

Also that toilet needs a little more care and attention or at least a big can of air freshener!

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 20 January 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East133.4167.40141.10128.52
East Midlands132.93141.67128.44
London133.0565.90142.23128.80
North East131.55139.57126.67
North West132.1066.90140.54127.58
Northern Ireland129.82134.61125.46
Scotland132.65139.08127.50
South East133.80141.93129.03
South West132.9567.90139.13128.12
Wales132.1064.90137.03127.13
West Midlands132.7866.57142.07128.26
Yorkshire & Humber131.9963.90141.14127.34

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