GENERAL APPEARANCE: Just two miles north of Chichester on the A286 is an isolated small complex of organisations that includes the Summersdale Garage and its Spar Shop. The site also includes the St Wilfrid’s Hospice shop and an autocare centre.

FORECOURT: The forecourt is well signed by an Esso pole clearly advertising the pump prices and a separate, but smaller, Spar-branded menu pole.

The pumps - four islands plus a separate pump for diesel - are covered by a V-shaped glass canopy.

The forecourt offers Calor Gas, air, vacuum and car wash services. Vehicles leaving the site have to pass by the side of the car wash which has been used as an advertising hoarding.

There is limited garage/shop parking by the car wash but around the hospice shop there are about 20 spaces that were all being used. The hospice shop seems to attract a lot of visitors.

There was a bit of a clutter of items outside the Spar including a blank ’A’ sign, pot plants and winter fuels.

SHOP: I was expecting a store up to the usual high Spar standards but was rather disappointed. This store has all the main convenience categories but is simply tired and rather a muddle. I assume it was subject to a refit some years ago but fittings and offerings are now below ’the ultimate in convenience shopping’ that the Spar UK website claims.

Either side of the entrance door were piles of products displayed on the floor that I assume were clearance lines. Facing the entrance is a food-to-go area that included a basket of sweet snack products, a Nestlé drinks machine and a hot food display unit containing just three savoury pastries.

On the rear wall of the shop is the news section. The display of newspapers was a shambles - a few titles had sold out but there were a number of damaged Daily Telegraphs all over the place.

It was good to see that a selection of local products were stocked but not clearly signed.

The range of products offered both in the cool cabinets and grocery section seemed extensive - so much so that no one product seemed to have sufficient facings to make an impact and I found it difficult to find the few lines that I was looking for.

The shop stocked a number of Spar products and there were some lines on promotion. But such is the cluttered look of the shop that none made an impact.

The shop does not have a customer toilet. However, the service from the untidy till area was quite efficient and friendly.

PROGNOSIS: From the volume of forecourt traffic, it is clear this site is meeting the needs of drivers wanting to refuel. But I wonder how many also become shop customers?

I assume that when the shop was converted to the Spar format the aim was to meet both the needs of drivers and those living within the store’s catchment area. Since then I feel the owner may have lost a little focus and, in an attempt to boost turnover and profit, has taken on more ranges and lines that have resulted in the clutter the shop now is.

DIAGNOSIS: My visits to forecourt shops and symbol group c-stores demonstrate how good wholesalers have become at supporting their customers - most have comprehensive programmes including training, store design, management, merchandising and marketing. Brilliant for new retailer recruits and/or retailers planning a refit but how good is the support for retailers who have been part of the group for some time and are not planning any significant store development?

PRESCRIPTION: I suggest the owner reviews the shop’s activity and calls in the Spar rep to help. They also need to review epos stats to eliminate all very slow selling lines and increase facings of lines that are selling well.

Ask Spar for some generic pos material in support of the local lines stocked.

Finally, they could consider some form of joint promotion activity with the next door’s St Wilfrid’s store which seems to attract a massive stream of supporters/visitors.