GENERAL APPEARANCE: On the A148 between Cromer and Kings Lynn is the small village of Aylmerton. Just outside the village is a Murco service station that includes a Your Store shop. Situated on a sweeping, wooded bend in the road, the site is clearly visible.

FORECOURT: The Murco pole is bold and bright and clearly showed fuel pricing and a menu of some of the services available. In addition there are notices on the verge promoting services including the jet wash.

The canopy in Murco corporate colours covers two pump islands. The pumps were accessible, all the nozzles seemed to be in working order but the diesel nozzle I used could have been cleaner. The price for fuel was some 2ppl more than the average in the area.

At one end of the site there is a jet wash and at the other, two used cars for sale. In between there is an ATM, Calor Gas and even rabbit hutches for sale! There are no designated parking spaces.

The toilet out the front was just about adequate but the wash basin was very grimy and surely hadn’t been cleaned for weeks.

The windows to the shop displayed an eclectic array of posters with offers. Customer ’for sale’ notices completely filled one panel.

SHOP: The shop fascia logo is Your Store with the added message ’Roman Camp Village Store’.

The wines, beers and spirits section was comprehensive and included a chilled selection. Newspapers and magazines were well merchandised. The food-for-now offerings included the usual sandwiches, savoury items, crisps, ice cream and soft drinks but also a Nescafé & GO hot drinks unit.

A basic range of packaged groceries was offered as was a range of DVDs, toys, cards and stationery. There seemed to be an absence of price promotion offers.

Rather like the shop window, there was a confusion of offerings but with few fresh lines.

The one member of staff on duty made eye contact and was friendly and efficient.

PROGNOSIS: In addition to the tough challenges currently facing the forecourt sector in general, this Murco/Your Store site faces the challenges of being a main road service station - there to serve passing motorists, and a village store - there to serve the local community. The evidence is that its owners are trying to offer a range of goods and services that meet customers’ needs, but is the business clearly focused on these two opportunities?

DIAGNOSIS: Like most service station sites this one needs to keep hold of its regular motorist customers as well as attract transient motorists - many of whom may be holidaymakers in the area.

Cut-price fuel may not be the long-term answer but then again pump prices must not be at too high a premium over local prices.

In order to prosper further the shop should put itself at the heart of the Aylmerton community and other close-by villages.

PRESCRIPTION: The owners of Roman Camp Service Station have already demonstrated great spirit and a willingness to ’have a go’. Many innovations - such as the animal hutches - have been introduced. And now is the time for yet more development and sophistication to drive the business.

Introduce a series of ’food-for-now’ meal deals, and then use the verge-side advertising boards to promote these offers.

Consider changing symbol groups - apart from in Northern Ireland, Palmer & Harvey seems to be doing nothing with the Your Store group. Give consideration to a promotion programme that includes door-to-door leaflets and distribute them to households in local villages. Ask the village residents what they would like the store to offer.

The Booker Cash & Carry promotion programme ’Shop Locally’ may be of interest and, with a depot at nearby Holt, is convenient.

Introduce fresh foods and local products (fresh bread, for example) and in this area a starting point may be

Finally, keep on top of basic good retailing practice - clean the loo washbasin!