GENERAL APPEARANCE: Delabole is on the B3314 some two miles west of Camelford (on the A39). The village is famed for its slate quarry (oldest working in England), the first commercial wind farm in the UK and as the birth of the Cornwall Air Ambulance service. I wonder if its Rock Land Garage also has a claim to fame. At the east end of the village the garage is located by the Regent-branded pole.

forECOURT: The forecourt is small with two islands of pumps covered by a Regent-branded canopy. Past a separate diesel pump there is access to the rear of the site and the workshop area (MOT service).

Pump prices were competitive, and as one of few forecourts in the area (the nearest is some five miles away; supermarket about 10 miles away) it was consistently busy with vehicles queuing on the road at times. While the pumps were all working, they were a little grubby and in need of some attention.There were no forecourt services or shop-front offers apart from a bowl of water for dogs.

SHOP: The shop does not have a branded fascia. It must be some time ago that the interior was last renewed and it all looked rather dated. There was some category merchandising tobacco gantry, car care, ice cream and frozen foods but generally it all seemed rather haphazard. OK if you are a regular customer, but not conducive to purchases on a first visit.

Confectionery was displayed in four different positions; some wrapped loaves seemed to have been thrown on top of the ice cream cabinet; and newpapers were on the floor by the display of magazines. However, there was a reasonable selection of sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks. A menu board outside the shop advertised pasties, but the display (mid morning) just two pasties in a small warming cabinet looked anaemic and unappetising.

Milk was from a local dairy, but no other local products (apart from those pasties) were in evidence. There is no ATM, off licence or customer toilet.

The one member of staff in the shop was efficient and friendly.

PROGNOSIS: The village of Delabole is made up of three hamlets linked around its long ’high street’. At one end of the road a closed forecourt and independent food store; a pub, a Post Office and a good Spar c-store; and at the other end the Rock Land forecourt and shop.

The significant ’point of difference’ for the Rock Land enterprise is its forecourt and competitive fuel prices. Its shop is second best in relation to the Spar store. So the challenge is to attract more shop customers and to persuade them to spend more.

DIAGNOSIS: The owners of the Rock Land business will surely want to grow both fuel and shop sales, but I sense that here the challenge of joining a symbol group or making a significant investment, or a total refit, would be a step too far.

However, to take full advantage of fuel customers and to further meet the needs and wants of holiday customers and those living at their end of the village, something needs to happen. So, what can be done without spending too much money?

PRESCRIPTION: A start would be to find out what the residents of Delabole would like from their garage and shop. A simple tick-box questionnaire may reveal a lot of helpful information. A series of meetings with various community groups (Delabole has one of the biggest Annual Carnivals in Cornwall) could throw up some interesting thoughts.

But, without any of this, the whole site would benefit from some TLC cutting back the hedges; cleaning the pumps and shop windows. The shop interior must be as bright, tidy and clean as possible. A major stock check would identify slow sellers for elimination. Help should be sought from suppliers’ representatives they help keep ranges and merchandising at the cutting edge.

A limited range of special promotion offers would add interest and stimulate sales. Install an ATM.

As a traffic builder, sign up for the new Health Lottery although this would require a payment terminal. Give local producers a platform for their products. (Contact for information). Localism is important and particularly in a tight-knit community like Delabole.

In these recessionery times research indicates that consumers shop more often and look for bargains and the occasional treat.

Maintaining and growing fuel volumes is a challenge, so shop performance is critical. Whatever shop developments are achieved, they must be communicated to the residents of Delabole.