GENERAL APPEARANCE: The store is housed in a ’farm shop’ style wooden cabin and the filling station shares the site with an outdoor clothing/camping shop that boldly promotes discount prices and seems to attract a
steady stream of visitors.
FORECOURT: The forecourt site is extensive so space is no problem. The BP-branded canopy covers four islands of pumps - each displaying promotion toppers for luggage scales and fishing kits. The canopy and pumps appear past their best - they could do with a clean and rust is clearly showing.
Despite the size of the forecourt, access to the pumps is only just adequate. Fuel prices are on a par with supermarkets and with the M6 only some five miles ahead, many motorists were taking the opportunity to refuel.
The area for parking was very uneven and could do with resurfacing; it would also help if some of the rubbish that was scattered around was cleared up.
There is a jet wash facility but with no protective sides.
It was quite windy during my visit and walking from the parking area to the shop, there was a danger of being covered in jet wash spray.
Air, water and vacuum services are available.
Access to the customer toilets - which were very good - is from the front of the shop.
SHOP: The shop exterior fits in with its Lake District surroundings and raised expectations of a farm shop offering local lines. The fascia simply states ’Shop and Kiosk’ but it was still disappointing; certainly it was no farm shop but instead a rather basic garage shop.
There is a large display of tourist information leaflets available and a pile of cardboard boxes containing the latest non-food pump-top offers.
The main categories on offer are ice cream, soft drinks, crisps, snacks, confectionery and tobacco. Newspapers are displayed in store and a microwave and Coffee Nation hot drinks service are also available. There is a very restricted range of groceries.
Local products are in evidence but mainly restricted to Kendal mint cake and prepacked bakery products. There was a limited number of products on promotion.
The one member of staff I saw was extremely pleasant and helpful.
PROGNOSIS: In recent times forecourt shops have developed beyond all recognition.
Many owners have joined partnerships with symbol groups and multiple ownership has also increased - forecourt shops have developed considerably and are now an essential part of the sales and profit mix of a service station.
A common factor among these operators is a prime business objective to provide customers with a comprehensive service - forecourt and shop - and excellent customer service in order to grow.
DIAGNOSIS: The Plantation Filling Station fuel offering is competitive and was attracting a steady stream of motorists.
The pumps, canopy and parking area are all a little past their best but the majority of transient motorists will accept this in order to obtain cheap fuel.
The site is part of the Auk Investments group that now owns five BP filling stations in the North West. BP is a powerful and well-recognised brand and in owning five sites I expect the group can be quite persuasive with its buying power.
What is needed is an equally consistent and powerful shop offer in order to maximise non-fuel sales.
PRESCRIPTION: A partnership relationship with a major retail shop brand should be a priority consideration. I expect a franchise relationship with BP has been given consideration but a deal with a symbol group would appear to offer great scope.
In the Lake District local products are widely available and this must offer an opportunity that is not being fully exploited at the Plantation Filling Station.
The management of such a range, particularly of fresh produce, can be a challenge but a joint deal with a local farm shop may offer a solution - and benefits to both enterprises.
Auk Investments demonstrates a progressive entrepreneurial approach to its business and a coordinated and focused shop programme should definitely help continued growth.