GENERAL APPEARANCE: On Cottingham Road at what must be the geographic centre of Corby, is a recently-opened Applegreen site owned by Irish independent Petrogas. Petrogas has more than 50 filling stations in Ireland and has announced that it is looking to open 100 sites across the UK.
FORECOURT: The Corby site has an Applegreen-branded pole showing illuminated prices. The first price is the standard price while the second shows the 3ppl saving customers get when they buy a car wash.
At the time of my visit most of the public footpath in front of the site was barricaded off and this complicated entrance to the forecourt. The large and spacious forecourt has three main elements: an automatic car wash with a two-bay hand wash facility; an Applegreen canopy over four islands of pumps: and the shop.
The cost of a car wash started at £1.99. Access to the pumps was good, all were clean, working and topped by two non-food offers. Air and water were available and there are plenty of designated parking spaces available.
SHOP: The shop is branded Applegreen and covered by an oval-shaped roof. The interior is large, airy and bright. To the left of the entrance newspapers, magazines and a confectionery display lead to the till area and off licence section. Straight ahead is a self-serve coffee machine (which was out of order) and grab-and-go sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks. To the right a café seating area. Grocery aisles occupy the centre of the shop and the serve-over café/coffee shop deli is along the rear wall.
Much of the available floor space was taken up with displays of Walkers snack offers in their original cardboard outers. A grocery aisle displayed a good range of grocery products but there seemed to be some aisles where category management was non-existent with bottled water and other soft drinks displayed all over the place. The abundance of soft drinks on display much at room temperature presented a very confusing image.
The café/coffee shop serve-over deli counter offered a good looking range of hot and cold foods. A wall-mounted menu titled ’Barista’ detailed the range of coffee and teas available.
The brilliant sales assistant went out of her way to explain what was available to make up my order.
Café seating is available instore and outdoors.
The public toilet was excellent and justly lives up to the Applegreen claim that it provides "hotel spec toilets".
PROGNOSIS: Petrogas is the leading independent Irish forecourt retailer and it has developed a distinctive business based on the ’Low fuel prices, always’ claim and its strong food-to-go offering. Founded in 1992, it has demonstrated a commitment to growing its business and meeting customer needs. I expect it will bring similar determination to its investment in the UK market.
DIAGNOSIS: Motorists are constantly seeking the best-priced fuel and in some cases will travel miles to find it. The Applegreen fuel price claim is powerful and the evidence in the Corby area is that it is keeping the majority of forecourt prices down. Fuel margins are, and probably will always be, tight and this has driven the development of the shop and increasingly food-to-go offers.
PRESCRIPTION: It would seem that Applegreen has achieved many of its objectives with this site in Corby. It is well and consistently branded. Fuel prices are competitive even more so when car wash discounts are included. In the main the ambience is good.
More use could be made of the wonderful photo shots that were displayed in front of and inside the store. The food-to-go offer is very good and set to meet growing demand. But the branding on coffee is confusing Full of Beans (with its Coffee Club loyalty scheme), Barista and Lavazza are all in evidence it needs clarity.
The grocery range needs attention to fully drive the sales and profit potential from the space available.
Some Londis-branded products were stocked and surely the Londis expertise of the UK forecourt trade should be consulted to ensure correct category ranging?
Low costs may be part of the Petrogas DNA but some resource invested in the supply of certain shop products will surely pay dividends in the future.