GENERAL APPEARANCE: The Molineux Service Station is situated at a great location on the A449 a main route between Wolverhampton, the M54 and Stafford. And this busy site is clearly identified by its Texaco/Lifestyle Express pole.
FORECOURT: This 24-hour site is tight on space and is shared with a Tyre Plus Autoservice garage (Tyre Plus is a ’voluntary group’ of independent tyre retailers).
Four pump islands are sheltered by a bold Texaco-branded canopy. At least one nozzle was out of action, but the pumps were clean and topped with promotions.
Although the retail price of fuel was 1ppl more expensive than a nearby BP site, the pumps were in constant use.
Designated parking spaces are at a premium and some shop customers took advantage of spaces in front of the Tyre Plus garage. Current Lifestyle grocery promotions are featured on posters around the forecourt
Forecourt services include a jet wash, vacuum and fragrance machine and Flo Gas.
An ATM was located at the shop front as was a display of winter fuels and rock salt great thinking as we were in the middle of the early December cold snap.
SHOP: The Lifestyle-branded shop is smallish at 750sq ft but bright with category signs in corporate modern graphics around the perimeter walls. A huge range of product categories have been squeezed into the shop and onto the shelves. Gondola ends display offers and about the only flexible display space by the shop entrance was promoting large bottles of pre-mixed screen wash.
To the front of the till is a food-to-go area. A hot drinks machine in the far right-hand corner seemed restricted to staff operation only. The rear wall was occupied by a line of chiller cabinets. A range of off licence products was chilled. There is no customer toilet.
The one member of staff on the till was constantly busy with customers while another member was in the back office/store room.
PROGNOSIS: Landmark wholesalers have had good success in the past few years with the development of their Lifestyle Express group. .
The group has recently introduced a new ’Evolution’ phase, concentrating more on store standards rather than just recruitment. A key element of the new programme is store segmentation with four formats. One is ’transient’, essentially for forecourt shops.
DIAGNOSIS: Consumers are well aware of convenience retailing and will continue to seek value as they complete their shopping needs. Products at insult price levels will be rejected.
More than ever independent retailers will need to work in partnership with their chosen wholesaler. Both independent retailers and wholesalers have similar aims wanting to achieve more from our aggressive and turbulent market. Just repeating what’s happened in the past may not be the answer for the future.
PRESCRIPTION: The owner of Molineux Service Station appears to have a great partnership with Lifestyle Express and has certainly ’poured a quart into a pint pot’. However, for a store of around 750sq ft in size, it stocks an extensive range of products. But the paradox of choice is that more is often less.
With the evolution of this shop to a Lifestyle Express ’transient’ store should come a review of its current range and some rationalisation of slow sellers. This would free up space to develop growth areas like food-to-go, hot drinks and fresh produce. The current food-to-go offering is limited and a hot drinks machine that allows customers to help themselves is a must.
There are two centre shelving units that seem too close to shop comfortably they could be replaced by a single unit. This would have the effect of allowing a more flexible display area. This space could be used for more special offers. I was greatly impressed by the seasonal screen wash and rock salt deals. So much more interesting than regular grocery offers!
The site (close to the Wolverhampton Wanderers football ground) seems an ideal location for hot snack/meal deals. By further evolution, the Molineux Service Station may continue to be a well-respected enterprise.