LOCATION: Coalville, a former coal mining town in north west Leicestershire, lies on the A511 trunk road between Leicester and Burton upon Trent. This site is the first in the UK to be branded Essar.

FORECOURT: From the main road, the forecourt is very visible with its Essar-branded pole and canopy.

Access to the three pump islands is easy and all seemed to be in good working order. The pump prices were competitive (ranging between 10ppl and 2ppl cheaper than the garages I had just passed) and there was a steady stream of vehicles refuelling. The pump islands carried advertisements for a selection of non-food offers.

Beyond the shop, a competitively priced Platinum Hand Car Wash service is available and a good number of cars were waiting their turn. The hand wash team uses a separate building that includes a toilet that’s available to all forecourt and shop customers. Parking on the forecourt is tight.

Other services include an air line and water unit and Calor Gas. On the forecourt is an air flag promoting Essar, a sign offering a ’Platinum Hand Wash for £5’ and a large model of a Costa Express coffee cup. It possibly misses a trick by not communicating a special price/loyalty deal.

In front of the shop was a free-to-use ATM, a newspaper unit (with a rather untidy jumble of papers) and a small display of flowers.

SHOP: The shop fascia is boldly branded Spar Express and positioned just above the entrance door is the message ’HKS Coalville’.

The shop is not very deep and the main sales area leading to the tills is to the left. To the right, the shop ends with some black sheeting temporally closing off a small area. In front of the sheeting are two displays one of which is a pocket money toy unit. Despite the closed end of the shop, overall it looks bright and light and it offers the main categories shoppers would expect in an express store.

The Costa Express unit was clean and there was a good range of sandwiches, snacks, crisps and soft drinks to meet the need for food-to-go shoppers. Along the rear wall, clean and well merchandised chillers offered a range of products.

I was surprised there was no leaflet about the introduction of Essar fuel. However, the member of staff proudly told me his forecourt was the first in the country to pump Essar fuel and that drivers liked it and sales were great.

PROGNOSIS: Essar Group is an Indian multinational conglomerate holding company with investments in many sectors and countries. Essar Oil UK owns the Stanlow Refinery at Ellesmere Port and the launch of Essar as a retail brand in the UK is part of that expansion plan. The company believes there is the potential to have 100 Essar-branded sites in the UK by the end of the year.

HKS Retail is a family business that is rapidly expanding. It recently doubled in size following the takeover of various sites.

DIAGNOSIS: C-stores are at the forefront of innovation and a positive growth channel. So, given its town location and space limitations, what options does HKS Coalville have and how can it engage further with customers?

PRESCRIPTION: Maintain a competitive retail fuel price. Promote the Essar fuel story to reassure drivers that it is a fuel with a global heritage.

Use the forecourt frontage to promote offers such as coffee deals and the availability of bread.

Ensure the offerings in front of the shop are in good order (neat and tidy newspaper display unit) and seasonal (BBQ kits/fuels for the up-coming season).

Distribute Spar promotional material to the many households in the catchment area of store.

Sort out the end of the shop and get rid of the black sheeting.

Take advantage of the important ’meal for tonight’ market by offering a good range of ready meals.

Undertake a range and marketing review with their Spar wholesaler Blakemore.

Consider the introduction of a parcel service.

Maintain a strong relationship with customers and maintain shop standards.

Perhaps nothing new here, and often-reported actions but no apologies! When introduced they work, and retailers and customers benefit.