Location: On the busy A13 Westbound in Essex.

Forecourt: The site is easy to see thanks to the ’golden arches’ of McDonald’s towering over the trees there’s a fast food drive-thru adjacent to the forecourt. The pole sign has BP, M&S and the Wild Bean Café all highlighted. Fuel prices seemed to be average.

Signage outside included a promotion where, if you filled up with 30l of fuel, you had a chance of winning a Jurassic adventure. There were also posters for M&S’s wood fired pizza meal deal and Wild Bean’s breakfast range.

At the pumps there was lots of pos highlighting the BPme payment app.

Shop: The reason for this visit was to use "the world’s first self-checkout for fuel and food". The shop has two of these revolutionary checkouts to the right of the traditional till area. The touchscreen has three icons: fuel, shop and fuel& shop. Here, I have to admit that I failed at the first hurdle as I pressed ’fuel’, when I should have pressed ’fuel & shop’. Having pressed ’fuel’, it gave me an option to choose the pump I had used (number eight). It then wanted me to pay (because I had pressed fuel only). At this stage I had to get a member of staff to help and it was very easy, it just meant scanning the food items I had bought. They all went through fine. I was then asked if I had an M&S Sparks card (yes) and a Nectar card (yes), which both scanned. I then paid (it was card payments only) and left.

As for the shop itself, I must admit to finding these BP/M&S stores a little confusing. You see all the M&S branded lines then all of a sudden there’s a big non-M&S brand mixed in.

There were lots of empty spaces on the shelves. For example, the ’Crisps and Global Snacks’ display needed topping up.

There was a big display for new Maltesers Buttons but it contained other Mars products and no Buttons. Likewise there was a counter display unit for the the Buttons but it was completely empty a victim of its own success? And the magazine display needed tidying up as lots of the mags had been pulled out and left flapping around.

There were lots of M&S Mix & Match offers and a 5ppl off fuel deal with certain beer purchases.

The Wild Bean Café was well stocked up with some tasty looking food.

There is one toilet for men/women and disabled people.

Prognosis: BP says digital developments are at the forefront of its business and a key part of its strategy. This has led to the development of this ’world first’ fuel and shop till, in partnership with NCR although it should be noted that the checkouts were first tested in Australia. BP says it sees the addition of these tills as a huge opportunity to differentiate it from its competitors in the UK. It’s only a pilot scheme at the moment at Bedford, Nodeway and Orsett South.

The site also did well in highlighting the BPme app which lets customers pay for fuel without entering the store.

Diagnosis: There’s no doubt the self-checkouts for fuel and food will be popular at busy times. My only concern, when using it, was when I had to pick the pump I’d used. What would have happened if I had picked a different pump where less fuel had been dispensed so I didn’t have to pay as much? I’m sure there must be something in place to stop this happening, but I am not sure what. Forecourt Trader spoke to BP about this who said that so far, throughout the trial, they had not had any instances of a customer attempting to do this. Plus its assurance team is monitoring this aspect very closely on a weekly basis.

prescription: In-store merchandising definitely needed urgent attention. M&S typically works to very high standards and, unfortunately, these were not apparent at this location.