On the B113 and heading towards Newry is a new EuroSpar store and Spar-branded forecourt. EuroSpar claims to be a ’large supermarket format aimed at fulfilling weekly shopping needs’. The advertising strapline is ’Expect a little more’. I did!

General Appearance: The site is large and there are plenty of parking spaces. The forecourt and shop site is shared by a separate building offering an off licence business and dentist’s surgery. An external ATM is sited at the end of this building.

Forecourt: What a disappointment! The forecourt is scruffy and I’ve never seen such dirty pumps.

There is no pole but the site is quite visible from the road. The fuel is Spar branded and there is easy access to the pumps. But one was not working and a pump designated to diesel was just covered in grime.

The usual air and water services were available as was a jet wash. The site offered a recycling service but it was a mess. At the entry to the store, newspapers, firewood, compost and pot plants are on offer. Some of the pot plants were well past their best and should not have been on sale.

Shop: The shop is quite new and the target, I guess, of a significant investment. A small tower that shows a large clock dominates the store entrance and the colour scheme is white with touches of Spar red and green. The building is most impressive and a little American in its style.

But what about the operation? Despite the poor forecourt and dying pot plants I remained optimistic, as it was a new shop that seemed busy.

First impressions weren’t good however. At the entrance was a display of flowers - some were dead. The small trolley park area was litter strewn and there were some dusty vases and a couple of duvets displayed on a shelf.

To me the dead plants, flowers and dusty old stock served as a note of caution - and showed a surprising carelessness about standards.

How can this be when so much money has been invested in the shop building? And it has such a large range of offerings. There is a Post Office section and the store includes a significant area of refrigerated cabinets including fresh produce. There is a serve-over butchery section. Bakery and extensive grocery offerings. It offers all that customers would expect from a large supermarket.

It featured a large range of EuroSpar promotions including many bogof and half-price offers. All good stuff but the shop offer was rather spoiled by quite a bit of rubbish on the floor and a large number of boxes abandoned by shelving in various sections.

It does not currently have an operational customer toilet but a member of staff helpfully showed me to a facility that seemed under construction, and judging from the odd range of toiletries left in the washbasin was being used by staff.

Staff were wearing Spar-branded uniforms. There were plenty of them but I did not see one smile!

Prognosis: Retailing is all about having clear priorities. The EuroSpar priority seems to promise a wide range of products and services to meet weekly family shopping needs. The key is delivering on that promise.

Diagnosis: The EuroSpar shop at Newtownclough fulfils the physical promise of the customer proposition. The forecourt and customer service definitely does not.

Prescription: The forecourt needs urgent attention. A ’spring clean’ - clear up the rubbish, clean the pumps and the disposal of dead stock - would all help. But a complete refurbishment of the whole facility should really be a priority.

In terms of the shop, the execution of those mantras ’retail is detail’ and ’service with a smile’ would seem to be the priority.

The store is great, and the range of products and services great. But that EuroSpar customer promise of ’Expect a little bit more’ needs to actually happen in the store. Staff motivation is vital. Having friendly and helpful staff can make all the difference.