GENERAL APPEARANCE: Stans Superstore, located in the village of St Martins just off the A5 between Wrexham and Oswestry, is a phenomenal family-run independent enterprise. The Superstore is massive (28,000sq ft) and includes a wide range of fresh food, a gift shop, restaurant, garden centre and a significant range (some 80 lines) sourced from local suppliers. As part of its promotional campaign last year, Stans Superstore claimed it was selling the ’cheapest petrol in Britain’. This, in part, was achieved by money-off fuel coupons given when you spent certain amounts in the main store. My focus was the forecourt clearly identified by its Jet-branded pole.
FORECOURT: The forecourt has three pump islands covered by an extensive Jet canopy. There was a reasonable flow of motorists refuelling but the pump prices were only on a par with local competition. While visiting the main store first, I was not made aware of any special fuel price deals.
The pumps needed a clean. The forecourt included additional services such as air, water, vacuum and a jet wash. At the shop front a bottled gas service is available. A poster advertised the availability of milk. There were a few forecourt parking spaces but it felt as if this was a fuel-only site and that the shop was not focused on convenience store custom.
SHOP: The shop fascia states ’Stans Superstore’ but it is clearly not really a continuation of the main business. The immediate impression is of a shop that falls well short of the now familiar forecourt convenience stores. In fact it gave the impression of being a mini DIY shed and a rather run down one at that.
Right across the rear wall of this smallish shop are racks of tools, car care accessories and DIY hardware. The displays looked dusty and not at all well shopped. The rather poor look of the shop was not helped by many abandoned cardboard boxes across the centre of the floor space.
A very basic range of packaged top-up lines was on display but only a few items of each. For example, just four standard wrapped loaves constituted the total bread display.
The cool cabinets also stocked a few items. There were only three packs of sandwiches at lunchtime!
A couple of bins of clearance lines added to the rather poor run-down atmosphere of the shop
No customer toilets or ATM were available (although an ATM was shown as available on the Jet pole). However, these were located at the main superstore site.
PROGNOSIS: Most superstores have long seen the benefits of selling fuel and the majority have a range of convenience products available to their fuel-only customers. Stans Superstore was on the ball, opening its petrol station six years ago, but the shop falls short of the competition and what customers expect today.
DIAGNOSIS: Fuel-only customers in St Martins have a choice Stans Superstore Jet petrol station with a rather poor shop or another forecourt with a bright modern convenience store. The pump prices on the day of my visit were the same. Customers using Stans Superstore for a main shop and also requiring fuel will, I am sure, use the Jet forecourt. But I guess fuel-only drivers, or those just needing a few top-up lines and those in a hurry, will use the alternative site.
PRESCRIPTION: I am sure customers like the buzz of shopping at Stans Superstore but I wonder if they feel the forecourt shop is a bit of a let down? If the trade has learned anything from last year’s recessionery trading, it was that consumers are looking out for value for money and fuel deals are high on their list and are very effective.
For Superstore shoppers, regular fuel deals should be part of the promotional programme in order to maintain the claim of the "cheapest fuel in Britain".
Non-Superstore customers need to be offered deals rather than tired DIY products. The space in the forecourt shop should be used for impulse and top-up lines.
Consideration should be given to extending the opening hours of the forecourt shop from the current 8am to 8pm to say 7am to 9 or 10pm.
Stans Superstore is clearly a great enterprise, driven by owners who want to do more.
I believe a refocus of the forecourt shop will add to the success of the overall business.