GENERAL APPEARANCE: Almost hidden away in the countryside is the small Shropshire village of Leintwardine and it contains a real gem. Griffiths Garage has three main offers: a maintenance, repair and MOT service; a forecourt; and a convenience store.

All are themed in light blue and yellow featuring a striking sun logo.

Space and parking is at a premium with the service workshops located behind the post office and customer vehicles are almost abandoned anywhere as drivers visit the various parts of the site.

FORECOURT: The blue and yellow livery gives impact and the pole is visible from both entrances to the site. The four island pump points are located under a large canopy that also covers the entrance to the shop. The forecourt was in good order with a row of flowering shrubs fronting the site.

Air, water and Calor gas were available but no vacuum, car or jet wash. Winter fuel and plants were available in front of the shop.

SHOP: The shop is unbranded but each of the windows features the blue and yellow sun motif. The exterior design is modern but sympathetic to its surroundings with a small clock tower and an attractively-designed wooden/glass entrance.

The shop offer is more than a c-store; more like a ’mini market’. There is an eclectic mix of local products and some more expensive gourmet items that enliven the shopping experience.

Hot drinks and bake-off are available, and also a home-baked craft bread offer with an interesting range of loaves. A good number of lines were on promotion supported by ’shop locally’ themed pos material.

I got into conversation with a customer who just could not stop singing the praises of Griffiths and how well the shop is regarded in the area.

The store does not have customer toilets but the helpful, friendly member of staff on the till directed me to the public facilities in the village. This is what community retailing is all about - a fascinating shop with friendly staff who have a great knowledge of the store, its products and the area it trades in.

PROGNOSIS: The number of independent service stations has fallen alarmingly over the years and there are still expected to be further closures.

Many owners have updated and expanded the shop side of their business, developing well-run c-stores in partnership with symbol group operators. Such partnerships are essential but there is a danger that all shops look the same and that the shopping experience they offer is safe but predictable. To develop genuine partnerships with customers and to realise further opportunities, owners need to promote a real point of difference from the competition. I believe Griffiths is doing that and is reaping the benefits, and if more independents were to do the same the trend in closures may be curtailed.

DIAGNOSIS: I have often recommended that forecourt businesses sign up with a symbol group. Reasons are sound - wholesalers offer professional retail support, branding strength and promotional activity. But I suspect Griffiths works well with it chosen wholesaler and does not see the need to identify with a specific group. Rather the business has demonstrated it is fiercely independent and projects this to the community it serves and as a result delivers exceptional customer satisfaction and loyalty.

PRESCRIPTION: No-one in their right mind would recommend major changes to this business. It’s clearly run by owners with commercial nous. However, a reminder that retail is detail is essential. It may be helpful for the owners and staff to just stand back from their immediate tasks and to look at the whole store from the perspective of a customer. There was some litter on the forecourt, also delivery cages were cluttering the front of the shop.

Lack of space almost certainly prohibits the installation of a car wash/jet wash facility, vacuum and customer toilets - although a notice directing customers to the village toilets would be of service. Space should not inhibit the installation of an ATM.

I believe Griffiths would benefit from a website and links with local tourism would be good. It is an intriguing enterprise and well worth a visit.