GENERAL APPEARANCE: A neat and attractive stone forecourt and shop, the Station Road Garage at Shipton-Under-Wychwood is situated on the A361 between Burford and Chipping Norton. The site on a tricky bend in the road is well signed with a bright Gulf pole and a separate Gulf and Mace shop sign on the side of the building.
FORECOURT: The forecourt has just two pump islands situated under an unbranded canopy. The entrance and exit are well indicated and access to the pumps is adequate. The forecourt was steadily busy and the pump prices were competitive with other sites in the area.
The forecourt was enhanced by some planted tubs and shrubs.
Parking was limited and further restricted during my visit by a tanker delivery.
On the forecourt, the Gulf orange disc logo was evident on some free-standing signs and the waste bins. A jet wash was available but the shop front display was limited to Calor gas and winter and barbecue fuel.
SHOP: The Mace Express-branded shop looked recently installed. The fascia, internal fittings and signage all appeared bright and fresh. The shop is small but full use has been made of the available space to incorporate a tight range of c-store category offerings.
Newspapers are included but the display was very limited and I guess the shop is buying in copies from another retailer.
A hot drinks machine is available as is a Ginsters-branded microwave. I did hope Ginsters was about to make a delivery because the display of product was very limited just one pack of sandwiches and a few savoury products.
The shop did not have an off licence nor did it have any fresh produce items.
There is a range of packaged grocery items as well as a good range of tobacco products, confectionery, ice cream and crisps. It was noticeable that some areas were short on stock and some space not properly utilised. There was also a lack of promotions.
The range of local products was also limited.
There is a well-used notice board.Customer toilets are not indicated but on request I was immediately offered a facility marked ’staff only’. It was in good order.
PROGNOSIS: To move forward, many forecourts have partnered with a strong brand of fuel and a branded c-store. The Station Road Garage at Shipton-Under-Wychwood has done just that.
DIAGNOSIS: In today’s marketplace, it is not sufficient just to tick the fuel brand/supply and shop brand/supply boxes to maximise sales and profits both sides of the business must be driven hard.
A starting point must be a full site survey and close understanding of customer needs and values. I expect Gulf and Mace went through that process with the owner and carefully examined the business and have promoted solutions tailored specifically to the needs of the Station Road Garage.
However, there’s no better time than now, for Station Road Garage to take a fresh look at its current offer and to work on further improvements
PRESCRIPTION: Here is a possible check list forecourt: maintain fair and consistent fuel pricing; introduce a jet wash loyalty scheme; make better use of the shop front with more external displays (eg newspapers, flowers); use the forecourt to promote shop deals (eg coffee, meal deals).
When it comes to the shop: ensure availability of known distress and impulse goods; develop a range of healthy eating products; coffee still offers a great opportunity introduce additional promotional material; offer ’meal deals’; expand the range of local foods stocked; re-examine all stock levels; give consideration to the installation of an ATM; and introduce a limited range of promotions.
In the shop there are some photographs and a copy of a press report of when the garage and area was flooded.
The recovery of the business is testament to the owners’ determination to survive.
Also on display are details of the current threat of the new business rates on forecourt businesses.
A great example of communicating with customers and the local community.
Keep up the good work and continue to introduce innovation to your offering.