GENERAL APPEARANCE: On the A360 Devizes to Salisbury road is the small village of Tilshead. At the edge of the village is Tilshead Garage, which has a Murco forecourt, a bright Mace shop and is developing a car park to the side of the site.

FORECOURT: The site is identified by a Murco pole showing competitive fuel prices and advertising the Mace shop and an off licence.

The forecourt area does not have a lot of depth but the four islands of pumps - under a Murco canopy - are reasonably accessible.

A jet wash is available and shop front offers include an ATM, Calor Gas and flowers. Winter/barbecue fuels are displayed in a recessed area that can be closed off at night behind roller shutters.

All the pumps were clean, in good working order and the forecourt was clear of litter.

Parking is limited - although there is a lay-by nearby - and the new parking area to the side of the shop will be a great asset.

SHOP: The shop must have been recently refurbished. The fascia and internal fittings are all in the corporate Mace blue and silver and look good. The store is deceptive in size and layout - from the front it looks like a standard size forecourt shop but inside it’s much bigger. So, space enough for plenty of refrigeration and all those vital c-store categories.

There is a large news and magazine section, chiller cabinets, food-to-go including an interesting ’pasty shack’ and off licence section. There is also a big grocery section with a good selection of Mace offers.

I found quite a few local products including meat, cakes, sandwiches and honey. The Salisbury Plain area where the site is attracts lots of visitors, so the shop stocks a good range of maps and guide books.

The toilet facilities were excellent.

The member of staff on the till was welcoming. He said the store got a lot of trade from the nearby military camp.

PROGNOSIS: The result of the owners of Tilshead Garage and Palmer&Harvey/Mace working together to mutual benefit are well demonstrated in this store.

DIAGNOSIS: Against the background of much media doom-mongering about recession, it is likely that many independent retailers will cut back on investment. Tilshead has made a significant investment and it would be a shame if it stopped investing in the business.

Now is the time for c-store retailers to understand fully the needs and wants of their customers - and potential customers - those living within the catchment area of the store who do not shop with them. So, a different kind of investment is required - retailers and their chosen wholesalers working in continued partnership.

PRESCRIPTION: I hope that the owners of Tilshead Garage will seek a meeting with Mace to review the redevelopment of the store. Has it met all their goals? What other developments should be investigated?

I would ask about the sale of newspapers and whether the introduction of an outside shopfront slimline news unit may help impulse sales.

I would ask if the car jet wash should be relocated to the other side of the forecourt.

Local products are still of interest and increasingly wanted by consumers. Local sourcing is not easy but Tilshead Garage seems to stock a good range across a number of categories. Locally-sourced products can produce a number of ’feel good’ benefits - especially bread and milk - and do create a real point of difference over superstores. I believe it would help sales if all local products are clearly identified as such. I would ask Mace to provide special point-of-sale material to help.

Tilshead Garage may be missing an opportunity in not offering a wider range of fresh produce (I only saw a very limited range in a chiller). Produce is another area that has its sourcing difficulties but the results of a well-managed section are well worth the effort.

The maintenance of store and toilet standards is an ongoing, but essential, challenge to retailers. To the owners of Tilshead Garage - keep up the good work!