LOCATION: The Commandery Service Station, one of four owned by Burns & Co, is located right in the city centre of Worcester. I also planned to pop into Hereford to visit another of their sites.

FORECOURT: A spacious site allows for easy access to the three pump islands. A few hoses were not working but each of the units was clean and topped with both current non-food offers and a ’save 1p per litre with Star Rewards’ (the Texaco loyalty scheme).

The retail price for fuel was 1ppl more than the prices I had seen at other service stations on my journey to Worcester. But the price seemed to be right, as the site was busy.

Forecourt services: A jet wash, air, vacuums, water and a few parking spaces are located to the left of the shop; to the right, a useful dog park hook and Calor Gas cage and some more designated parking spaces. The shop front area is almost all occupied by sacks of various types of winter fuel. There is also a newspaper display unit

SHOP: Two big brands dominate this site Texaco on the forecourt and Spar in the shop. Hot drinks and food-to-go offerings are right at the store entrance. Apart from the Costa Express unit which looked as if it was well used the rest of the range is rather basic. In terms of hot food there is a microwave available but it looked as if it wasn’t used much!

The shop is not over large but most c-store ranges are stocked. Produce seems limited to grab-and-go fruit.

It was difficult to get to the off licence section as the floor was being mopped (probably not the best time to be cleaning floors at 13.30!) but I did see some local ciders. Some other local products were supported by shelf talkers that gave some details of the producer.

Overall: The store range was wide but rather traditional; nothing really grabbed my attention. However, Spar brand products and promotions were well supported. I found the in-store TV advertising and music rather intrusive and wondered whether the majority of customers really like it.

There is no ATM or customer toilet facility but I was kindly directed to the nearby Tesco Express the competition!

The store was really well staffed and the assistant who served me was friendly and efficient.

I popped into a second Burns & Co store, this one at Ledbury Road, Hereford. I believed it to stock a wider range of local produce but no, it was predominantly the good basic range of branded and Spar-brand products and promotions. Once again this store had a Tesco Express very close by.

There were plenty of the Spar instant promotion ’Shop & Win £500 every day’ flyers on the counters. But in neither shop was I offered a leaflet and encouraged to enter an opportunity missed!

PROGNOSIS: Family firm Burns & Co is, like most c-stores, trading in a volatile and competitive landscape. It is forecast that over the next few years, the convenience channel will continue to grow. Retailers who understand this and adapt their business to take advantage of shoppers’ changing needs will prosper.

DIAGNOSIS: Convenience retailers need to be prepared to evolve to meet changes in shopping habits.

PRESCRIPTION: There are plenty of opportunities to leverage their independence and central position within their community.Development tactics could include:

Extended use of the forecourt for promotions: jet wash, coffee and meal deals.

Introduce an ATM free to use.

Promote a ’click & collect’ service as a PayPoint retailer, perhaps their Collect+ service.

A range review every product must earn its space.

Engage with the local community and install a community notice board in store. Develop the use of social media.

Consider opening a customer toilet a valuable service now expected by customers.

Promote the Burns & Co family history as an independent retailer.

This is a good business and they may be doing some of the above it was difficult to tell as in-store information was limited. The company must develop away from the safety of the traditional Spar and branded grocery range to reflect the demands of today’s shoppers.