Location: In the small market town of Harleston, between Thetford and Lowestoft


The site is highly visible thanks to the bright red canopy and Esso-topped pole sign which also lists Esso Synergy fuel and has the Budgens and Lavazza logos too as well as the message ’Nectar points here’. Potted flowers under the sign add a nice, summery touch.

Next to the pumps are bins with gloves and paper towels.

There is a bespoke walk-in coal bunker to make things more convenient for customers.

Banners around the forecourt highlighted Budgens Big Deals on items including Onken yogurt and Highland Spring.

The site is open from 6.30am to 9pm, Monday to Saturday, and 8am to 9pm on Sundays.


Signage on the storefront says ’Great local service since 1919’ and is accompanied by some interesting old black and white photos. This theme continues into the store with more photos.

There’s a nice looking fresh flower display as you walk in the door with the flowers placed in buckets inside wooden crates. On the other side of the door is a good little barbecue section featuring products such as disposable barbecues and lighter fuel.

As is usual with Budgens stores, there is a big emphasis on fresh food.

The fresh produce is laid out in baskets on shelves but lots of gaps spoiled the effect. Fresh value signs promoted offers such as tomatoes at 99p but those tomatoes had sold out.

Chillers are chock full of Discover the Choice ready meals and pasta. There are also loads of different yogurts on display but a big gap where the Discover the Taste Tiramisu should have been.

As well as the Budgens own label, there was a range from an award-winning local butcher called Pepperell’s.

An end-of-shelf display was meant to house boxes of cans of Diet Coke and big bottles of lemonade but only two of the five shelves were full. Next to this shelf was an abandoned trolley with a foot stool on it as well as some random stock such as Lipton iced tea and Oasis drinks.

Unfortunately one of the chillers was leaking but staff had put paper towels under it to soak up the water as well as a ’Caution wet floor’ sign.

The Lavazza coffee area was clean and tidy but there was a bit of rubbish on the floor. There is a hot pastry cabinet next to the coffee, but it was mostly empty.

The off licence section looks smart with its wood-effect flooring and shelving. Many lines were available chilled.

A section of shelving was given over to angling products, to cater for fishermen on the nearby lakes.

There are some good examples of up-selling to encourage impulse purchases such as corkscrews on clip strips near the wine and doggy poo bags on a clip strip next to the pet food.

A trolley near the till filled with reduced lettuces, other veg and bread made a poor impression.

The customer toilet was very impressive spacious and clean.

There is no ATM as there are four nearby, but the store does offer cash back.


Lawrences Garages at Harleston has been serving its local community for over 20 years. Last year the company completed a re-build of the site, and reopened with a state-of-the-art Esso forecourt and a 1,800sq ft Budgens store. Following the redevelopment, shop sales have apparently more than doubled, and fuel sales are also increasing.


Gaps in the store let it down big-time, particularly in the hot pastry display right next to the busy coffee area. The meal deal area was also a bit messy.


My prescription for this store is simple. It’s the tried and tested ’walk the store’ more. The store is great but it is let down by gaps which makes some of the sections look messy. Checking sections a few times each day and getting gaps filled should be easy.