GENERAL APPEARANCE: Located just off the A48/A466 Larkfield roundabout on one of the main roads to Chepstow town centre is the joint-branded Texaco/Star Market service station. It includes an impressive Countrywide store that has recently undergone a refit.

FORECOURT: The service station has a Texaco pole that shows illuminated fuel prices. The pole also promotes ’car wash’ and ’off licence’ but not the shop!

The pumps - three islands - and access to the shop are covered by a Texaco-branded canopy. The well-used pumps were clean but only one island was offering diesel. The four diesel nozzles at the other two islands were out of service.

Vacuum, air and water are available as is a Calor gas service. At the front of the shop there is a very prominent ATM, and flowers/plants, newspapers and winter fuels were also available.

SHOP: The door and entrance to the shop is well worn and past its best. Immediately to the left of the entrance is a Tchibo coffee machine but it was messy and looked as if it had not been cleaned for ages. The entrance and coffee machine areas reflected the tone of the total store.

But in terms of convenience categories this Star Market ticks lots of boxes but still the shop gives the appearance of being run down and poorly managed. Many items were very low on stock and a few packing cases were left abandoned around the store. The shop stocked a very limited grocery range but these products, like most in store, were expensive - very close to ’insult prices’. There were very few lines on promotion.

The toilet floor had recently been cleaned (well there was a cone warning of a wet floor) but the rest of the facility was a mess. On the rear of the toilet door was a Texaco notice about the facility with a message that if it was not acceptable, to tell a member of staff. Also a cleaning rota, to be completed every hour - it showed no sign of any entries, ever! The unacceptable state of the toilet was brought to the attention of a member of staff, but he seemed rather disinterested.

PROGNOSIS: The economic forecast is for more uncertain times. Some retailers are suffering and many independent retailers are entering into partnerships with symbol groups with their tried and tested branded and own brand ranges and promotions. A well run symbol group shop can help to take away some of the current uncertainty felt by consumers.

DIAGNOSIS: The Chepstow Star Market shop while offering many essential forecourt c-store categories, is probably past its best and in need of a major makeover. On the same site as the service station is a large Countrywide store that had been the subject of a revamp and had recently celebrated its re-opening with an ’Extra 10%’ event. It also has an off licence section that appears significantly superior to the Star Market offering.

The Countrywide store is a destination shop and must attract lots of customers - many of whom could also be attracted to refuel and shop the Star Market. What an opportunity! But one totally missed by the Star Market!

PRESCRIPTION: There’s no magic formula to get a shop to trade to its optimum. Just hard work and focused investment.

Short of a revamp and promotion as a symbol group shop - and given its location this must surely be a very viable option - the store fabric needs to be improved. Stock levels and prices should be re-examined, stock range updated (fresh and local products are currently ignored). And staff re-trained and motivated.

As an operational minimum it must get on top of the management of the customer toilets.

But getting all forecourt services and the shop to operational excellence in difficult trading times should not be an option it should be a given. Customer service must be a priority.

So with all their collective experience there’s plenty for the owners of Texaco/Star Market, Chepstow to do and plenty of opportunity to convert this poor impulse shop to a good destination store and to drive the site’s turnover and profit performance to new levels.