General Appearance: The Simon Smith Group has a number of stores in Gloucestershire and my target was the prize-winning 24-hour site in Barnwood Road. This includes a Budgens store and Total forecourt.

Forecourt: Clearly signed by an illuminated and informative Total pole, the oblong site is quite narrow, but great use has been made of the available space.

The canopy is contemporary in design and covers five Total-branded fuelling islands offering a full range of fuels from some 40 nozzles.

Air, water and a fragrance vacuum are available as is a car wash and two jet wash bays. All of the car wash facilities were clean, clear of debris and well marketed.

The site offers several designated customer parking spaces although none appear to be reserved for disabled drivers.

To the front of the shop were a number of offerings, although some were sold out! To the right of the entrance door were three illustrated themed posters headed; ’freshness’, ’delicious’ and ’refreshing’ - great for enhancing the fresh-food image of the store, but too much copy. So, mixed thoughts as I entered the store - a great forecourt, some good local offers but two out of three items were out of stock.

Shop: This independently-owned Budgens store has all the hallmarks of a well-disciplined multiple. As I entered the store it was instantly obvious that a great deal of thought had gone into the design, fitments, product category offerings and merchandising. The windows were clean, clear of posters and gave excellent visibility both into and out of the store. It was light and bright and radiated ’fresh’.

I was impressed by the fresh and chilled offerings and the wines, beers and spirits section. Beers were displayed in a deep chiller that allowed cases to be offered. It was slightly puzzling that the hot drink machine was at the opposite end of the store to the food-to-go offering. The newspaper display was a bit ragged - but it was 2.30 in the afternoon.

Generally the store was professionally merchandised with many sections well shopped, but with some products close to being out of stock.

A wide range of products was on offer, many displayed on gondola ends. The offers had proved popular - to the point that they looked in danger of being seriously out of stock.

The store theatre was enhanced by the use of hanging signs - it was a shame that one at a critical point of visibility was hanging loose at one end.

The Budgens uniformed staff appeared busy and motivated and my enquiry and transaction was completed in a friendly and efficient manner.

In general a great store, but there were some questions about stock control.

Prognosis: First impressions count. And this purpose-built Budgens store Total forecourt site certainly looks good and ticks a lot of boxes. It is testament to the drive of the Simon Smith Group’s Susie Hawkins and the partnership with Musgrave Budgens Londis.

In the forecourt convenience store sector partnerships are working well. Symbol group stores are in the main good and making progress. Multiple partnerships with petrol retailers are gaining ground. But the Budgens offer is unique - inviting entrepreneurial independent retailers the opportunity to own and run a model multiple business.

Diagnosis: As good as the Budgens model may be - and the company is very good at fresh - it is the retailer that must drive the partnership at store level. Clearly Susie Hawkins and the Simon Smith Group have demonstrated this. I expect they are constantly examining the store and its performance.

Prescription: This is an exceptional store and perhaps I am being hard on them about a few out-of-stocks. But if that’s how I found the store at the time of my visit - that’s how shoppers found it too. The old mantra ’retail is detail’ again springs to mind and I am sure that the great management that is behind this store will get this problem sorted. I am confident that the Barnwood Budgens store and Total forecourt will continue to be a successful enterprise.