LOCATION: This site is on the A140 Norwich-to-Cromer road. Coming from the Norwich direction, unless you know it’s there, you could over-run and pass the forecourt as the signage seems to be better from the Cromer direction.

FORECOURT: This is a Gulf forecourt with a McColl’s store. Fuel prices are good so there was a steady stream of traffic during my visit.

There’s a jet wash and this was being used during my visit.

There are red bunkers along the front of the shop but most are empty, which means there’s a lot of wasted space.

Shop: The shop fascia reads from left to right: ’Your Local Beers/Wines Depot’ then ’McColl’s’ with several brand logos such as Stella and Walkers either side of the name. Along the front of the store there are messages such as ’Spend & Save’ and ’We deliver newspapers’ accompanied by photos of big brands.

Stepping inside, I first noticed the dirty door mat and dirty floor; not a good start.

Given McColl’s pedigree as a CTN-based business I wasn’t surprised to see a huge range of confectionery (pick ’n’ mix, American candy etc) but my visit was in mid-September and they already had Christmas confectionery on display. Was this the best use of space?

There was a Fruit-tella 30% Less Sugar sweets dumpbin by the door but it was empty. Similarly further inside the store, there was a display stand for Mars Chocolate’s new Goodness Knows bars but it was empty. Unfortunately, this was a pattern across the whole store with lots of gaps on shelves and, where there was stock, a lot of it was not faced up properly ie it had not been brought to the front of the shelves.

However, there was some good use of secondary siting with a display of wine accompanied by clip strips of nuts, for example.

There’s a Big Hot Food sign with Rollover hot dogs and lots of Pot Noodles on display but the microwave was out of order. The pastry warmer was mostly empty and three baskets in the in-store bakery display were empty. On the plus side there were plenty of sandwiches and wraps in the chiller and there is a Nescafé Alegria coffee machine.

There was also a really good Big Night In ’Free Film with your Snack Meal Deal’ promotion where you had to buy a selection of products, then were given a scratchcard which gave you a code to redeem an online film.

The fruit and veg was displayed in baskets on shelving with wood-effect pos. The baskets were fine and I imagine the wood-effect pos was used to convey a rustic/fresh image but it had the opposite effect, looking cheap and nasty.

The Post office is clearly signposted at the end of the counter. A small car care section is hidden away at the back of the shop. There is no customer toilet as staff told me the last one had been vandalised. Staff were friendly and helpful but didn’t ask whether I had a Plus loyalty card.

prognosis: McColls recently signed a new supply deal with Morrisons which will give it exclusive access to around 400 Safeway own-brand products as well as access to Morrisons’ fresh food range and purchasing power.

Diagnosis: There’s no doubting this is a great facility: a 24-hour site with c-store including off licence, lottery, food-to-go and post office I just think it is poorly managed.

There’s really no excuse for empty promotional dumpbins if they’re empty either fill them up or take them away. And, with empty shelves, at least face up the stock you do have. As for the dirty floor, that’s easy to resolve too.

This store had a decent range and some great promotions; it just needs some TLC. And I’d advise that they get rid of the awful fruit and veg pos as soon as possible.

The new Morrisons deal should be good news for McColl’s but with stores run like this, you wonder if it’s going to be a wasted opportunity.