General Appearance: Driving from the Manor House area along the very busy A503 Seven Sisters Road towards Finsbury Park, I made a ’stealthcheck’ on what I thought would be a cutting-edge, gold mine of a Jet Service Station and shop. Wow, what a surprise - this is in fact a very run-down and very disappointing site.
Forecourt: The forecourt is a corner site and the initial impression as you drive by is depressing. The pumps look old and dirty and at least two were out of service. However, the pole advertised competitively-priced fuel and there were constantly two or three vehicles refuelling during my time on the site.
The forecourt offers no car wash facility and the air and water machine was not working, but the vacuum was. Parking space is limited and there are no designated spaces. Some time ago the enterprise had a service bay but this looked as if it has been long closed and the space is just lying dormant.
To the front of the shop, services available include an ice dispenser, Calor gas and winter fuel.
Shop: The shop is not branded and the fascia is simply painted in the Jet corporate blue and yellow but is rather faded. The top quarter and bottom half of the shop window is blacked out so you can only see into the shop through a narrow strip of glass.
This is a smallish clean shop focused on supplying the transient driver and shopper. Most of the key grab-and-go categories were on offer although stock levels were poor. In the sandwich and savoury snack chiller there were no sandwiches, and only three savoury snacks and one pork pie. A microwave is available but not a lot was available to heat up in it. The majority of the products (soft drinks, confectionery, snacks and grocery) on offer were tertiary brands and unknown to me. There were very few price promotions available and these were only supported by hand-written cards.
There were a few Christmas lines still on offer and a Christmas Coke promotion poster on the entrance door - in late January. The one member of staff, who might have been the manager or owner, was friendly and apologetic about the customer toilet being ’out of order’. My transaction was handled efficiently.
Prognosis: Without urgent action this surely is the sort of business that will not last long. And in a short while I fear it could become just another statistic of an independent forecourt and shop site closed.
But need this be the case? The forecourt location is great - on a very busy London road. The shop location is great - it’s under a large apartment block and is surrounded by densely populated streets.
The prognosis for forecourt shops as convenience stores remains hot. But what is needed is an entrepreneurial approach to exploit this opportunity.
Diagnosis: One thing that’s clear is that there is a mass of support available to help independent retailers. Any of the main symbol group wholesalers, independent delivered and cash & carry wholesalers have packages - from finance, retail development, shop-fittings through to own-brands and promotion packages - to meet the needs of progressive retailers.
I suppose it’s all about the owners wanting to offer customers great service and value.
Prescription: The total site deserves refurbishment. Jet needs to respect its brand and ensure the canopy, pumps and forecourt services fully protect and promote the brand’s strength.
I believe the shop requires a new image and a total refit. There is a wide choice of symbol group packages available and the owner should be encouraged to produce a short list of possible suppliers.
If that is all too much then I plead with the owners to work with their current wholesalers to promote the shop locally - a leaflet drop in that apartment block would, I am sure, reap dividends. And there’s my regular plea for the retailer to pay attention to detail - get some of those ’out of order’ facilities working for a start. I am sure the opportunity for this site is massive - the forecourt can surely increase its litreage and car valeting services and the shop its sales.
The ultimate aim is more satisfied customers and increases in sales and profits, plus a more secure future for the enterprise.