GENERAL APPEARANCE: Around a mile from Dartmouth town centre is the Townstal Road Garage. Part of the privately-owned Holliss Filling Stations group, it offers BP fuel and has a Spar shop.

FORECOURT: The garage is well sited and accessible plus it is well signed with a distinctive BP pole and canopy. The pole promotes the forecourt with competitive fuel prices, the Spar shop and support for the South Hams Food & Drinks initiative. The site is enhanced by the use of some flowering tubs.

The forecourt is not large and was busy, resulting in parking spaces being difficult to find. There are three islands of pumps, all in good working order. The Nectar points promotion ’Swipe a Million’ was being actively plugged at the pumps and on separate posters. Other offers included Tim Hortons fresh coffee and baked goods.

The site was too restricted for any car wash facility but the offers lined up at the shop front were extensive. They included an ATM, Calor Gas service, flowers and plants, winter and barbecue fuels, screenwash, lubricants, fuel cans, wicker baskets (some broken), holiday items such as beach chairs, balls and body boards. A huge selection but rather let down by the lack of retail price details.

SHOP: The shop is a spacious Spar convenience store. At around 2,000sq ft, it offers all the key convenience product categories.

The owners seem to have thought about all types of shoppers local and tourist, top-up, regular and transient and how their needs and wants may be accommodated.

To the right of the entrance there is an area of holiday items including wetsuits, towels and local maps. To the left, a free-standing Ginsters branded sandwich and snacks cabinet.

The produce section was limited although large paper sacks of local potatoes were available. Spar ’Real Deal’ offers are well supported with gondola end displays. A wide Spar own-brand product range and some jointly-branded BP Holliss Filling Station snacks, such as roasted and salted cashews, are available.

The food-to-go section is branded Tim Hortons and was offering a comprehensive range of coffee and other hot drinks and both savoury and sweet baked goods.

A Post Office Partner Service is available. But what sets this store apart from others is its support for the Food and Drink Devon ’Love the Flavour’ initiative. A very wide range of the food and drinks are stocked and displayed together in a franchise section.

The shop does not have a customer toilet but a member of staff directed me to one nearby.

PROGNOSIS: The family-run Holliss Filling Stations group (three sites in the South Hams area of Devon) is clearly a progressive and well-run operation. In partnership with two strong brands (BP and Spar), they appear to be on top of current customer trends particularly in respect of local/regional foods.

DIAGNOSIS: There is a constant need for a business to ensure it keeps up with consumer trends and competition to drive turnover and profit. A requirement made much more difficult with large and somewhat unpredictable variations in trade volume.

Research suggests that the consumer trend to shop more locally and to eat more healthily continues. Spar and other groups are reporting significant increases in the sale of fresh meat and fresh fruit and vegetables.

PRESCRIPTION: There is much to admire about the Holliss Filling Stations’ site at Townstal Road, Dartmouth. But attention to a number of areas would further enhance the business. For example, the shop front offers need to be price identified.

I found the material promoting the very wide range of local foods a little confusing. Confusing in as far as the site pole states South Hams Food & Drink but a lot of other material in store uses the current title Food & Drink Devon ’Love the Flavour’ (F&DD). A greater use of themed pos material would help to identify and promote the great range of F&DD products stocked

A ’little and often’ policy for the bake-off food-to-go offering would allow a day-part marketing programme to be introduced. Each opportunity could be linked to a coffee/drink offer.

Basic stuff, but attention to detail is essential and it works.