GENERAL APPEARANCE: My chosen target was the Snax 24 site at Richfield Avenue, Reading. Just out from the city centre, the Snax 24/BP forecourt on the A4155 is close to the busy Caversham Bridge across the Thames. The pole, BP corporate canopy and Snax 24 fascia clearly identify the enterprise.




FORECOURT: The site is not large and the canopy covers four islands of pumps. All the pumps were clean, in good working order and topped by non-food promotion details. The pump prices were competitive indeed unleaded was 1ppl less than my local supermarket and there was a steady flow of customers refuelling.


The car wash entrance via the rear of the shop, was well promoted with an offer: Mid Week Special 1/2 price car wash Monday-Thursday.


Forecourt facilities include air/water, vacuum and a car fragrance service. Immediately on entering the site, there are a number of designated parking spaces. Most were reserved for customers of the neighbouring George Café. For shop customers, only three spaces are available to the side of the shop.


Services in front of the shop include an ATM, post box, flowers and barbecue requisites.


The front wall of the shop includes a number of poster frames promoting various special deals. At the forecourt exit a notice requests: "Please be quiet and respectful to our neighbours when entering and leaving this site at night. Thank you." This added to the feeling that this was a clean, well-run and organised forecourt operation.




SHOP: The shop fascia states ’There’s more in store at Snax 24’.On entering that immediately seemed right. The clean and bright shop, although with limited space, showed that a range of offers was available. All were visible due to the low shelves and clear signage.


All seemed focused on selling impulse, with the grocery range pared down to the basics. To the left of the entrance, a range of magazines leads to the beers and wines section with a tight range in cool cabinets. Straight ahead from the entrance is the main food-to-go area with hot snacks and drinks. At the time of my visit (mid-morning), there was a good range of fresh, hot snacks available by Bake & Bite.


Hot drinks were available from a Kenco machine. I wonder if this section could be better promoted as part of a Wild Bean Café?


A range of sandwiches, baguettes and branded savoury snacks was available, as well as a microwave.


Confectionery, crisps and soft drinks were well merchandised and most top sellers were stocked. A number of offers, including a meal deal, were available but nowhere near the number found in a symbol group store. The absence of fresh produce, local products and a customer toilet were a disappointment, but the overall ambience, cleanliness and ease of access to the whole store were positive, and certainly added to an efficient shopping experience.




PROGNOSIS: Some two years ago, Snax 24 scaled down its grocery offering and focused on selling impulse and fuel with the aim of speeding up the shopping process.


Clearly one solution does not fit all as demonstrated by the Snax 24 relationship with Mace in certain stores. In the main, fuel-focused operators offer competitive fuel prices that have put independents at a disadvantage.




DIAGNOSIS: Change can provide opportunity. The withdrawal of Total from the UK and growth of the Snax 24 and Shell operations will take some time to shake down. And there may well be further market structure changes aimed at greater economy of scale.


But it is likely that Snax 24 will continue to run sites on a fuel- focused basis with a tight impulse range in the convenience store.




PRESCRIPTION: The Snax 24 at Reading is, I assume, a good example of the Snax 24 fuel/impulse programme.


But as I shopped the store a number of thoughts sprang to mind: develop a loyalty car wash/coffee discount programme; introduce and promote some local products; extend the Bake & Bite range to include baguettes etc; and offer a limited produce range bananas and apples are always popular and the main ’topping-up’ sellers are milk, bread and fruit.


Snax 24 Reading is a very well managed business forecourt and shop and a great blueprint to roll out across the new, expanded Snax 24 empire.