GENERAL APPEARANCE: The Sickleholme Service Station near Bamford occupies a dominant corner site at the junction of the A625 and A6013 in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District.
FORECOURT: The building and canopy are built from materials in-keeping with those used throughout the Peak District National Park. The unbranded canopy covers four islands of pumps. There is a separate HGV diesel pump.
A range of Texaco fuels is available. I was pleasantly surprised that the prices were competitive I was expecting a premium given the location and that the site is some miles from other forecourts.
The HGV pump is at the side of the forecourt and is out of sight of the sales assistants in the shop. Drivers wishing to use this pump are asked to call at the shop first to avoid drive-offs.
Car wash, jet wash, air, water, vacuum and bottled gas services are at the rear and side of the site.
There is ample space for parking to the side of the shop.
Offers at the front of the shop include papers (not daily nationals, which are only available in store), winter and barbecue fuels, bulk packs of bird seed and flowers.
SHOP: The blue shop fascia simply states ’Sickleholme Convenience Store’. There were posters on the entrance door informing customers that the store is open 24 hours as well as Mace-branded material.
The shop is a busy convenience store offering a wide range of goods and services including all the key c-store categories.
A good selection of wines and beers included a number on promotion and the essentials in a cool cabinet. Food-to-go provision includes a Tchibo hot drinks service and Bake & Bite savoury and sweet pastries. But perhaps the most distinctive offer was a very good range of ’home-made’ sandwiches and rolls.
National daily newspapers were displayed on the bottom shelf of the magazine display unit. An ATM is available and also a photocopy machine. Ice cream seems to be a speciality with a good range of Wall’s, Ben & Jerry’s and a local brand all available.
The groceries range includes all the basics and a number of brand leaders on promotion. Also some Nisa Heritage brand products are available. Sickleholme-personalised Nisa promotional leaflets were evident at the check out.
The customer toilet was extremely well maintained.
A large map of the area marked ’you are here’ and a small selection of local guide books demonstrates some awareness of tourists’ needs.
Local products are available throughout the shop with some special features. A member of staff reported that customers are known to regularly make a detour to come and buy their local products here.
PROGNOSIS: The convenience store part of the forecourt business is taking an ever-increasing share and independent operators, with their greater flexibility and entrepreneurial drive, are attracting customers to buy much more than just fuel. Complacency is a danger but can be countered by a regular business review. In a well-focused business change does not need to be massive but small customer-focused improvements can help sales and profitability.
DIAGNOSIS: Sickleholme Services offers a wide range of services and I suspect they are regularly reviewed to ensure the business is achieving customer satisfaction.
It would appear that its chosen symbol group partnership has recently changed to Nisa so it must now work to achieve maximum benefit from the change.PRESCRIPTION: This is a well-managed store but a few details need attention. The management needs to remove all Mace signage to avoid customer confusion and replace the current rather dull blue fascia with a bright Nisa Local one. They should also include national daily newspapers in the front-of-shop display unit. They could build on the tourist trade with an expanded range of guide books and postcards and promote products needed by self-catering holidaymakers. They could also offer a free cup of coffee against fuel/shop purchases and use of the car wash facilities. Finally, they could develop a website to promote all of the enterprise including the local products.