GENERAL APPEARANCE: I first reported on this enterprise in Forecourt Trader in January 2005, when I called it "a mid first division site that may struggle to gain promotion to the premier division". Last year I was most interested to learn that the owner had changed symbol groups and was successfully selling a range of local products. So I went back to see how things were progressing.
FORECOURT: The forecourt with its bright yellow and blue Jet-branded polesign, matching canopy and pumps, is clearly visible.
Access to the pumps is tight but did not seem to be a problem for the vehicles refuelling. The pump prices were competitive with non-supermarket fuel prices.
An array of offers topped the pumps, which were in need of a clean. In addition to the forecourt and shop, the business includes a breakdown service, repairs/MOT workshop and used car sales.
The customer unisex toilet is located towards the rear of the site, and although in need of redecoration, it was in much better condition than on my first visit.
Parking is limited but shop-only customers should be able to find a space. In front of the shop is a storage bin containing winter and barbecue fuel plus, on top, items for sale such as fuel cans.
SHOP: The shop is branded Best-One Xpress previously it was a Key shop. The first impression is that the smallish narrow shop includes a good range of product categories. And it does, but it all seems a bit of a muddle perhaps work in progress?
Just to the right of the entrance is an empty upright frozen food cabinet. The tops of shelving near the shop entrance are grey with dust. Further to the right is a counter with a microwave and Nescafe&Go hot drinks machine. On the opposite side of the shop cool cabinets display a range of local sandwiches and savouries. I was delighted to see a range of locally-made bread and cakes.
Impulse lines are on offer as is an off licence range (wine and beers in a chiller).
There is no fresh produce offering and little evidence of Best-One own-label products.
The one member of staff dealt with my transaction and enquiries efficiently and courteously.
PROGNOSIS: Research is constantly telling us that shoppers are looking for fresh and local products from their supermarkets and c-stores.
To their credit, major symbol group wholesalers have significantly improved their offerings and many encourage ’outside’ buying of specialised locally-produced lines.
Best-One, part of the Bestway Group enterprise, encourages a ’working partnership’ relationship with its members and as part of that appreciates that retailers will want to buy certain products outside the agreement.
DIAGNOSIS: Consumer expectations be they fuel only or shop customers will continue to be driven by exceptional operators.
This has had the effect of massively improving many retail offerings and requires constant vigilance if only by the practice of ’management by walkabout’ or looking at your business as customers do. If practised at Hopcrofts Holt those dusty shelves would have been clean long ago.
PRESCRIPTION: In my first report I thought the business might struggle to gain promotion, now I fear it will not make it any time soon. However, with some further work it should be possible to drive this business forward.
For drivers the price of fuel is competitive and the task is to get them to stop, refuel and then use the shop. Many forecourts in such situations boldly promote meal and coffee deals. Loyalty schemes for coffee can also be introduced. Regular service customers could be automatically enrolled into such an offer, and the card would be an excellent device for promoting other Hopcrofts Holt services.
A start has been made with local suppliers and this should be expanded and then well promoted.
The installation of an ATM would be a huge customer attraction.
Take Best-One at their word and seek a total review of performance since signing up with them. They should provide support and advice that will help drive the business on to promotion.