GENERAL APPEARANCE: The BP/Spar Tinkerbell Service Station is just outside the village of Barford St Martin on the A30, almost at the mid-point between Salisbury and Shaftesbury.
FORECOURT: The large forecourt is well signed by its BP-branded pole and canopy but seems rather stark. Some BP Olympic material would have transformed the appearance. Access to the four islands of pumps (all in need of a thorough clean) is good and they are in pretty constant use. Given that the nearest fuel competition is probably Salisbury (10 miles away) or Shaftesbury (13 miles), the pump prices are competitive.
Forecourt services are sparse and not at all promoted. They include a vacuum; make-shift airline; and jet wash. There is a limited number of designated car parking spaces all full during my visit.
The outside public toilet had an unpleasant smell and had no towels or air dryer with which to dry your hands. The last resort was toilet paper, some of which was just abandoned on the floor.
Shop-front offers included Calor Gas, newspapers and barbecue fuels. Signs promoted the Lottery and Pay Point and there were a number of window posters promoting various Spar offers.
SHOP: There is a long red and white fascia that runs the considerable length of the shop building and in its centre an illuminated Spar sign. The shop is a good size, with all the main c-store categories on offer.
I had to join a queue of eight customers but there was only one cheerful member of staff on the tills. This all created a feeling that this business was not working to its optimum. While waiting to pay, customers pass the usual impulse offers but also a large display of Coke bottles on the floor! Clearly not chilled and certainly rather dusty even at £1 a bottle they did not seem an attractive buy.
The Cuisine de France and Simply Coffee sections were okay but did not seem very busy and were not well promoted. A hot food-to-go unit was not functioning.
Produce was on offer both from chilled and ambient displays.
A wide range of products, including a good selection of Spar lines, was on offer but it all seemed rather predictable.
There was a selection of Spar ’Real Deal’ promotions.
From time to time, it may be necessary to display product on the floor but this outlet has items all over the store. Perhaps, as a result, the floor was not well cleaned.
There is a large range of magazines including some rather expensive ’country’ titles a clue to some of the clientele? I could find no local products stocked.
PROGNOSIS: The owners of the Tinkerbell Service Station are in a challenging situation a large unit in the depth of the country. In addition to attracting passing traffic, they require positive reasons for people from local villages to come and shop with them.
So a great choice to partner with national, well-respected brands BP and Spar, but this relatively safe haven does not tick all the boxes on how to run a successful enterprise.
DIAGNOSIS: One of the major attractions of the Tinkerbell site to driver is its location and its competitive fuel prices.
There are attractions too for non-fuel customers this Spar shop offers all the main convenience store categories. But as fuel volumes continue to be a challenge, and consumers become more discerning about what they expect from their choice of shops, Tinkerbell would do well to review their operation.
PRESCRIPTION: Over and above the key element of the choice of trading partners is the need for the owner/retailer to control their business in order to achieve a positive trading outcome. Much of this comes down to routine retailing standards.
Tinkerbell Service Station could improve things on the forecourt by cleaning the pumps and sweeping up; ensuring the airline etc is in good working order; and deep cleaning the toilet and providing a hand-drying facility.
In the shop, the floor needs cleaning and the displays dusted. Goods need to be taken off the floor and put onto shelves.
They could also investigate the introduction of some premium and local products. And ensure there are sufficient staff to avoid long queues at the tills.
Despite some of its current short comings, my guess is that this business is doing well. But how much better could it do?
An application of Tinkerbell fairy dust would help!