LOCATION: The Falcon Garage at Tadley is located on the A340, where it snakes around the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) towards Aldermaston.

FORECOURT: Falcon Garage is impossible to miss. It’s a large site with a tall Budgens sign, a huge Shell-branded canopy and pole. There are six pump islands (48 hoses) each in very good order and with customised TV media screens. So, no non-food offers but freestanding promotion boards, some Budgens theme boards and plenty of Shell V-Power imagery. The price for fuel was bang on current prices. There is a separate HGV lane with a fast diesel pump.

The site has plenty of parking and includes a workshop offering MOT testing, Calor Gas, a car wash in constant use and two jet wash bays. And, a rare, maybe unique forecourt facility an opticians called Optimum Vision Clinic. This too was busy.

In front of the shop is a free-to-use ATM, winter solid fuels, screen washes and newspapers. Two picnic tables are positioned just on the side of the Subway unit.

SHOP: In Budgens corporate style, the long fascia simply states ’Budgens of Tadley’. A first impression of the store is that it is spacious, light, well signed and merchandised quite simply impressive. To the right is the Subway section and during my time in store there was a steady flow of customers. The main Budgens store is to the left, but right in front of the entrance is a free-standing floor unit containing spray cans of de-icer. A great impulse position on what had been a cold and frosty morning.

The sandwich, hot savoury pastries and Costa Express unit (needed cleaning) are all positioned close to the entrance.

The shop offers a good number of meal ingredients and sales of these may be helped if they were highlighted with breakfast, lunch and supper/dinner signs. There are two Cook frozen food cabinets.

The produce section was excellent but I think chalk board labelling would further enhance the display. There were some good wine offers and beer case deals

The range of grocery products is extensive and I wonder if some range rationalisation may be possible to make space for some more local products.

Promotions at various price points are displayed on shelf ends and a wide range of SuperValu products are available.

There is a customer toilet, which at times was locked, and requests had to be made for the key and at another time not. It was in quite good order and there are computer printed notices asking users to keep it that way. However, the Budgens branded inspection rota displayed on the wall didn’t have one entry!

The store was well staffed and the two on the tills were friendly and efficient.

PROGNOSIS: The owners of Falcon Garage have made some excellent partnerships Shell, Budgens, Subway and Costa Express, that should serve them well into the future.

DIAGNOSIS: Trade predictions indicate that the convenience store sector will continue to grow and that the competition between supermarkets, discounters and online will continue to be vigorous.

Falcon Garage is well situated on the edge of a lot of housing and currently ticks a lot of boxes and the challenge is to maintain what it has and to drive the business further forward.

PRESCRIPTION: Fuel prices continue to drop and the reduction in the retail price is led by the big supermarkets. At the time of my visit, the Falcon Garage prices were in line with most competition but Asda was just about to announce a price reduction that would be 5ppl cheaper than Falcon!

Retail is detail! Attention should be given to the customer toilet, to the Costa Express unit (the counter needed a clean) and to general ticketing.

I saw no evidence of a Click & Collect service, nor support for any community activity, nor use of social media. It’s important that a cutting edge store like this does not get overtaken by retail developments.

It took great foresight, commitment and financial investment to develop this business and, with a keen eye on managing costs and the future, I am sure it will continue to thrive.