LOCATION: Just outside Broadstairs on the A255 are two large retail parks both part of the Westwood Gateway complex including major superstores offering fuel at highly competitive prices. They provide fierce competition for my target site the Broadway Garage trading as Morrison’s Budgens of Broadstairs.

FORECOURT: The forecourt is large and very visible thanks to its Gulf-branded pole and extensive canopy. The six islands of pumps looked in need of some TLC all were rather tired and fuel-stained. The forecourt was constantly busy. Prices for fuel were competitive.

Each pump was topped with signs promoting non-food offers. There was also a rather faded sign stating ’2p per litre off on spend of £20 instore’. A great offer but not fully promoted.

The airline, water and vacuum services and two jet wash bays (dry as a bone and clearly not used on the day of my visit) are at the rear of the shop but I could see no sign to direct drivers to these facilities or a menu of charges. Further opportunities not fully exploited.

In the centre of the line of pumps nearest the road is a pile of screenwash containers.

A large white buildin4g possibly a warehouse standing taller than the canopy is to the left of the store and on its side is a large Subway logo. Perhaps sited a little remotely from the store to link the two?

To the front of the store is a small cage of Flo Gas canisters, a free-to-use ATM, displays of barbecue fuels and bouquets of flowers. Hanging baskets help to soften the front of the store.

SHOP: The fascia states ’Morrison’s Budgens of Broadstairs’ and the window displays a variety of notices and posters. The store is quite large (I estimate over 2,200sq ft) and in the middle of the store opposite the entrance is a very wide aisle almost dividing the store into two halves.

At the front of this area, suspended from the ceiling, is a TV screen (not working) which has a sign hanging from it stating that the shop does not have customer toilet facilities. Clearly plenty of customers must ask for one!

Food to go is available at three points sandwiches/wraps at the far right of the shop, the Subway counter to the far left and the Costa Express unit in the middle of the rear wall. It certainly makes customers ’shop the shop’ if they want items from each offering.

All major categories are stocked. SuperValu products, promotion offers, a £1 zone and seasonal offers are all available.

But what makes this store different from many is its excellent support for local suppliers’ products. Many lines were integrated on shelf within their product category. Others with a separate stand display rapeseed oil and a display at the end of a chiller totally devoted to specific local products and also promoting the Thanet Farmers’ Market. Most of the local products are highlighted by distinctive shelf ticketing.

The store is staffed by a good number of helpful colleagues.

PROGNOSIS: This enterprise has a lot going for it. Despite some local competition, it is in a great position at the entrance to the town to prosper from both drivers refuelling and customers using the shop. Open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the forecourt and shop can accommodate a broad range of services to meet customer needs. It must also enjoy a significant boost from seasonal trade.

DIAGNOSIS: In an age when the major multiples control so many outlets, independently owned stores need to work hard. What they have going for them is that point of difference, they are independent. But independents still need to conform to the store standards and customer service demanded by today’s customers.

PRESCRIPTION: Deep clean the pumps, sign and promote the jet wash facility. Give thought to developing a customer toilet facility. Use some of the warehouse space perhaps. Utilise the central aisle space more effectively. It would be a great area for a ’market stall’ and regular demonstrations by local artisan food producers.

Exercise management by walkabout. Some of the produce was looking a little tired; there were some out of stocks for example Peroni beer that was on offer; and the floor was a bit marked and littered. Management and staff should always look around the store as if they were a shopper.