LOCATION: This site is on busy Walsall Street, near Wednesbury town centre.

FORECOURT: This is a smart looking site with a massive forecourt area. It’s easily distinguishable thanks to its green and white BP canopy and pole sign announcing BP, Budgens and Subway. There’s also a big red and yellow banner facing the street saying ’Better ranges. Lower prices’.

BP Ultimate fuel is highlighted over every pump.

On the back wall of the site there’s a big banner for the site’s meal deal. Elsewhere there are signs and banners promoting the 24-hour off licence, a ’Win Your Ultimate Roadtrip’ competition and Costa coffee.

There’s plenty of parking on site and a large Turtle Wax-branded car wash. Behind the Budgens store, there’s an InPost parcel collection point.

Out front of the shop there are two ATMs plus the usual screen wash, newspapers and a big pallet of compost.

Unusually, there’s a bus stop right outside smack bang in the middle between the entry and exit to the site which might be good for store trade?

Shop: There’s quite a good fruit and veg range (Booker’s Farm Fresh) but some obvious gaps on the shelves. Meal for tonight items included British boneless pork loin chops and British rump steak. These items looked appetising but the reduced pack of mince less so as it had turned a dark brown! There’s good use of secondary merchandising with Sharwood’s curry sauce and Dolmio placed in the chiller alongside the meat.

There are three Cook freezers but, rather disappointingly, they are not filled with Cook ready meals. Instead they had run-of-the-mill frozen products. When asked about this, staff said Cook had not sold well. However, the branded freezers had not been removed. I notice afterwards that there is also a Cook poster on the store front facing the main road.

There are two Costa Express machines, with the surrounding area all neat and tidy.

This store has a brilliant range of snacks including seeds, nuts and dried fruit, a Graze unit as well as lots of protein bars.

The off licence area is separated from the main shop area by use of a wood-effect floor. The alcohol fridges are well stocked.

There was a customer toilet but it was not the best. There was toilet paper and other rubbish on the floor; the floor was wet (with what I was not too sure!) and it smelt in there.

Prognosis: MFG was voted The Shopper’s Favourite Forecourt Retailer at this year’s CTP Awards and you can see why. It’s number two in our Top 50 Indies list with some 406 sites. Its stated aim by boss, Jeremy Clarke, is to become ’the UK’s most dynamic and profitable independent forecourt operator’.

Diagnosis: Having more than 400 sites to look after takes some managing so everything is not going to be right all of the time.

BP Budgens Wednesbury Service Station is a great site and a real credit to MFG.

Merchandising across the store is generally very good and there is some great use of cross-selling.

However that said, I think the promotion of Cook frozen ready meals outside the store and the use of branded freezers inside the store is a very big ’no, no’.

It’s misleading for a start, and just does not portray the business in a very positive light. These branded freezers either need to be refilled with Cook products or removed/replaced.

Regarding the toilet, the very nature of having such a convenience can be troublesome but if you are going to offer one then it needs to be checked regularly. It’s not going to be anyone’s favourite job but it definitely needs doing.

Budgens has a strong reputation for fresh and quality foods so a Budgens store needs a fresh-smelling and tidy toilet.