LOCATION: The busy A103 Hornsey Rise road dissects the middle of an area bordered by Upper Holloway, Stroud Green and Crouch End. So, my stealth check target is surrounded by thousands of houses.

FORECOURT: There is a 20mph speed restriction on Hornsey Rise, so the site is clearly visible helped by the BP-branded illuminated pole. The forecourt is a good size and the space has been well utilised but seems a bit of a clutter due to the over-use of flags, posters, signs and banners with too many different messages.

The fuel prices were in line with non-supermarket local competition, although 1ppl more expensive on unleaded. The pumps were festooned with various notices and offers but were generally clean and all working. The canopy supports looked in need of repainting.

The pumps were all busy during my mid-morning visit and most of the designated parking spaces full.

To the left of the shop are the air-line, water and vacuum services and the entrance to the car wash.

The front of the shop has the usual array of offers a free-to-use ATM, Calor gas, winter solid fuel, canisters of screen wash and AdBlue and newspapers.

SHOP: The shop fascia states MRH Hornsey Rise, Spar and Subway. The Spar and Subway logos are bold and very clearly visible from the road. The shop frontage and window like the forecourt carry a lot of information including various meal and other deals.

To the right of the shop’s entrance is the Subway serve-over counter and a seating area. There was some litter on the floor that looked as if it had blown in from the forecourt. On the left the aisles led to the till area and Costa Express. An engineer was working on the machine so it was out of use.

As a good proportion of the shop is taken up by Subway, display space for packaged and fresh merchandise is limited. Some basic convenience store categories are adequately represented, for example confectionery, snacks, a tight range of grocery and household products, bread and milk. The off-licence section was good with a number of lines on offer. Some categories seemed under-ranged, in particular pre-packed sandwiches.

Next to the Costa Express, a display unit carried a selection of products that had been baked-off in store. Opposite was a frozen food unit of breads and pastries to ’Bake at Home’. Great idea but a pity the top of the unit had some unopened boxes piled up on it.

I understand the place of products marketed at a £1 price point. But this shop had lots a sign hanging from the ceiling advertised ’100s of products at £1’.

Fresh produce was represented by a few packs of Spar-branded fruit. The customer toilet was disappointing the toilet bowl and wash basin were very clean but the walls and floor need urgent attention, to get rid of the rank toilet smell and to clean off the offensive graffiti on the wall.

The member of staff on the till conducted my transaction in an efficient and friendly manner.

PROGNOSIS: BP, Spar, Subway and Costa Express together are powerful strategic partners for MRH. And MRH is a successful enterprise, growing to become the largest independent service station owner in the UK. It has recently been bought by a US private equity business Lone Star. The pressure to make an acceptable return on investment will therefore surely continue.

DIAGNOSIS: The success of any enterprise is in the tactical application of its strategic plan. In the case of MRH, this means the continuing need to drive their fuel and non-fuel business to maximum effect. So no let-up in sales pressure and the need for disciplined trading from both the forecourt and the shop.

PRESCRIPTION: Here are some thoughts on how MRH Hornsey Rise may improve its retail offering:

Maintain a competitive fuel price

Ensure all pumps are clean and uncluttered by reducing the number of non-food offers

Remove all the old posters, flags and banners from the forecourt and focus on a few key messages

Ensure the customer toilet is upgraded, maintained and cleaned on a regular basis

Review the number of £1 offers and focus on the best sellers

Increase the fresh ranges

Introduce a limited number of artisan products such as bread.