GENERAL APPEARANCE: On the A4 at the entrance to the town of Hungerford is a filling station. Its dominant pole tells all with its large distinctive ’T’ star, Somerfield name, 24-hour signs and illuminated fuel prices.
FORECOURT: There is easy access to a large forecourt and the six islands of pumps that are all housed under a large Texaco-branded canopy. Fuel prices are competitive.
The pumps were topped with display cards promoting two non-food offers. Forecourt services included a designated area for air, water and vacuum, a ’soft brush’ car wash (prices from £2) and a Salvation Army collection bin for clothing and shoes.
The whole forecourt was marred with litter the litter bins were full.
Parking spaces are marked and, in addition, drivers were leaving cars on other areas as they popped into the store.
Around the perimeter of the site, on the side of the car wash, and on a number of other poster boards special offers were being promoted. Posters also proclaimed ’Sandwich Convenience Retailer of the Year’.
In front of the shop, offers included an ATM (in fairly constant use), newspapers, screen wash and lubricants, toys, barbecue and winter fuel and fresh flowers.
SHOP: The shop is branded Somerfield. It is a traditional rectangular shape and almost all the space is being used, but is so full of product and special offers that it presented a somewhat cluttered appearance. The floor was dusty and there was quite a lot of litter; it looked as if it had not been cleaned for some time.
All main categories were available. Most supported by a selection of special offers and many off-shelf displays.
The store promotes a Co-operative bakery range and a Coffee Nation hot drinks bar. There was a notice to customers asking them to try to keep the bar clean and tidy, but it looked in need of a good clean.
The packaged grocery section looked poorly shopped; both shelving and products were dusty.
The availability of a few Somerfield and lots of Co-op branded products may present a confusing image to customers.
The customer toilet was adequate, but the floor was in need of cleaning.
The checkouts were staffed by a team of cheery and helpful assistants.
PROGNOSIS: In March 2009 Somerfield joined The Co-operative Group and a rolling programme of re-branding is still under way. The Somerfield name is due to disappear by the end of 2011.
A dual-branded campaign was launched to help integration.
DIAGNOSIS: The Co-operative Group must have the re-branding of the Somerfield forecourt shops programmed and, for the good of the business, I hope that the transformation takes place as soon as possible.
PRESCRIPTION: The expectation must be that this Somerfield forecourt shop will soon be rebranded and then able to capitalise on being fully part of the Co-op group.
I look forward to visiting a Co-op rebranded Somerfield forecourt shop and hope that the Co-op’s promoted themes will be delivered in store. I did not get the impression that they were in this Hungerford site.
One of the convenience sector’s mantras is that ’retail is detail’ and I think to deliver an exceptional customer experience the management at this site should re-focus on some of the basics.
The forecourt and shop should be kept clear of rubbish.
The customer toilet should be regularly cleaned and inspected.
The hot drinks counter must be kept as spotless as possible.
The canned and packaged grocery section could do with a spring clean. Shelf filling should be given more attention stock put away and empty packing cases moved out of shoppers’ way.
Consideration could be given to stocking a selected range of local products.
I very much look forward to revisiting this site when it has become a fully integrated part of the Co-op Group.
Murco Petroleum Ltd
Further to our report in the Shop Doctor in the June issue of Forecourt Trader concerning the Murco dealer station at Uplyme, Devon, we have been asked by Murco Petroleum Ltd to make it clear that Murco enjoys an excellent relationship with the owners of the station, that there is and has been no dispute and that it was inappropriate to suggest remediation of a dispute that does not exist. On the day of the report the pumps were out of action because of an administrative problem concerning credit card acceptance unconnected with Murco. We apologise to Murco and to the owners of the station for any inaccuracies in the report and are happy to publish this correction.