GENERAL APPEARANCE: Applegreen Fairies Cross is located in the Republic of Ireland on the outskirts of Tralee, the county town of County Kerry. It is a corner site with a lot of passing traffic and is near the Kerry Technology Park and the Tralee Pitch & Putt Club.

The distinctive Applegreen apple logo on the pole and a large canopy bearing the legend ’low fuel price, always’ is difficult to miss.

FORECOURT: The forecourt is a corner site with a lot of space on one side; access to the pumps at the front of the shop is good. All islands and nozzles were in working order and there was a very steady flow of drivers refuelling. An Applegreen exclusive crystal glasses offer was promoted at each pump and also on the website.

The fuel price was 153.80 euros for unleaded and 143.80 for diesel. It was quite a change to fill up with diesel and benefit from it being the cheaper fuel. Applegreen prices certainly fulfil the promise of ’low fuel price, always’.

Parking is to the side of the shop where a Clothes Bank, airline, water and jet wash facilities are located. There is also a Flo Gas service.

There is no real display space in front of the shop but a narrow area has a number of poster boards advertising various special offers. Themed posters feature the availability of Applegreen gift cards and Rewards collection cards, food and Lavazza coffee.

SHOP: It is a good size store. To the right of the entrance is the till area, to the left the ’barista’ service food area with a number of tables and chairs, and straight ahead is a self-service hot drinks and grab-and-go sandwich area. To queue for the till, customers pass the usual run of confectionery and snack items. I did study the Tayto crisp display for plain ’ready salted’ but it seems this is a variety that is just not stocked in Ireland!

Towards the café area is an ATM, a chilled and ambient display of wine (they seemed only to sell wine and not beers and spirits) and a cabinet of frozen pizzas. A tight range of top-up basic grocery lines is at the centre of the shop.

The ’barista’ service café area is clean and bright, and a pleasant place to sit. Part-day merchandising was coming to the end of the breakfast/mid-morning range and a lunch menu was just under way. It all looked delicious.

Staff serving at the counter were extremely friendly and helpful.

Applegreen appears to understand the current financial situation and under a ’Better Value Always’ theme is promoting offers on a range of popular everyday items. Applegreen branded products are available.

A number of free-standing displays feature a range of products, including small toys.

The customer toilets were first class and certainly live up to the Applegreen claim that they provide "hotel specification toilets".

All the sales assistants in the store were brilliant and each provided exceptional service.

Every purchase (fuel and shop) generates a one cent donation to the Applegreen Charitable Fund. This year’s recipient is the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation. A running total of euros raised is shown on the Applegreen website

PROGNOSIS: Petrogas has over 90 sites in the Republic of Ireland and UK. Growth in the UK has been steady. There are currently 24 sites, but that number is set to almost double this year.

DIAGNOSIS: Applegreen is well known for providing good value, high-quality food and coffee on-the-go, and clearly has ambitious development plans. But it is, of course, not alone.

The grocery multiples’ attention is increasingly focused on the c-store sector both c-stores on forecourts and standalone ones.

Consumers continue to be price conscious and their aim is to achieve value for money.

All this makes for a yet more competitive forecourt market. What can the independent operator do about all this? Learn from what the multiples are doing and adapt it as part of their business

PRESCRIPTION: My usual ’prescription’ is to try and give some pointers to the store that I have just visited. But that seems inappropriate here because I simply do not know the market in the Republic of Ireland!