It is often reported that what shoppers want from a convenience store is:
- friendly staff
- fair prices
- quick service
- availability of products
- clean stores
- fresh produce
What a pleasure to come across a shop and filling station by and large fulfilling all these requirements.
Driving south after a fascinating visit to the magnificent new gardens at Alnwick and before a visit to the regenerated Quayside at Newcastle, I needed to refuel so turned off the A1 towards Morpeth and just at the junction was a Jet filling station.
FORECOURT: The site is large and has a distinct feeling of space about it. To the right of the entrance is a veterinary practice and to the side and rear of the forecourt and shop is a ‘Country Store’ each with their own parking areas.
There are a number of designated parking spaces for garage customers and the clearly marked ‘entrance’ and ‘exit’ system ensures good access to the pumps, although it was so busy I had to queue for a few moments.
The canopy covered the pumps and the entrance to the shop, which were all in the distinctive – but now rather dated – Jet livery.
The forecourt offers air and water but no car wash. Calor gas is available, as is a large display of fire kindling and solid fuel. By the front entrance to the store was a rustic display of good-looking vegetables just like those at my local farmer’s market.
SHOP: The entrance door to the shop was dirty and needed some attention, but the shop offered all the standard c-store categories and was obviously well used. The toilets were clean. There is an internal door from the shop through to the Country Store and what appeared to be a saddlery section.
The c-store was just receiving a delivery from P&H and the driver and shop staff were busy unloading cages from the front of the shop onto the shop floor – I guess the next step was to move it all to the store room. All rather a tiresome business and during the process the stock was blocking off a number of sections so that shopping the entire store became a problem.
I hope Ginsters were about to call as the savoury snack section looked low on stock and selection. The dairy section was also short of stock and I could find no chilled foods. But around the store there was a display of local products including a further display of produce. The staff appeared efficient and friendly, and in addition to fuel, I purchased a jar of local heather honey and they dealt with the problem of it not scanning without drama.
PROGNOSIS: The lesson learned by so many fuel retailers in recent years is that operators need a good convenience store attached to a filling station in order to make the site pay – both in terms of turnover and profit.
DIAGNOSIS: However, it’s not sufficient in today’s mega competitive market to sit back and claim ‘job done’. A constant refurbishment programme is essential. Sure, the Jet/Fairmoor convenience store currently ticks many of the consumer’s ‘wants’ boxes but I believe I could detect signs that give concern for the future. The Jet livery looked jaded; the convenience store looked tired; the entrance door was dirty and some of the fitments looked old; some sections were perilously close to being out of stock; stock selection – such as chilled products – did not reflect the market; and there was a lack of promotional activity.
PRESCRIPTION: There should be no need to remind the owners that constant change and development is essential in order to further progress the business. The ‘management’ team should revisit the site and objectively revaluate all elements of their customer-facing offer and make improvements that will develop a good business into an even better one.