GENERAL APPEARANCE: Not far from the cathedral is the Forecourt Trader of the Year 2012 prize-winning enterprise, Budgens of Wells. Opened in July 2011, the BP forecourt and Budgens store is located in the heart of a dense housing area.
FORECOURT: The site has impact thanks to the BP-branded pole and the canopy, which is a very distinctive wavy shape. There is a designated entrance and exit, and good access to the three islands of pumps (with a total of 24 nozzles).
Fuel prices are competitive and the pumps in fairly constant use.
Posters advertise a ’Forecourt Attendant Service’ available Monday to Friday. On duty the day of my visit was a very personable young man filling up cars, helping with the car wash, checking tyre pressures, oil and screenwash. But I could not use his service as he was in constant demand by earlier customers.
The forecourt is limited in space but good design has ensured the availability of essential driver services air, water, vacuum, jet and a ’soft brush’ car wash.
In front of the store are a number of designated parking spaces.
Posters promote Nectar, the lottery and Budgens £1 offers.
An ATM free to use newspapers, winter fuels, screen wash, flowers (very few and mostly dying) and sacks of potatoes are on offer at the shop front.
SHOP: The store looks lively on entry. Directly ahead is a bold gondola end display of £1 offers. To the right the bright produce section, to the left a Costa coffee hot drinks area and the aisle leading to the till area. All the hot food-to go products looked fresh and appetising.
The store is some 2,300sq ft in size, is bright and a typically well-designed Budgens community store. All the main c-store categories are available.
A notice states that the store competes on price on key ’everyday’ lines with Tesco.
The off-licence section offers a good selection of beers (some local) and wine.
Local products are clearly important here (some 200 different lines stocked) and have an exclusive gondola end section. Those with shorter lives are well identified by specific advertising in the cool cabinets.
The produce section was being ’spring cleaned’. Two of the staff were covering display trays with hessian and re-stocking the displays.
A delivery cage of pre-packed produce lines was in the aisle and being rapidly unpacked to ensure the least disruption to shoppers.
The customer toilet was spacious, clean, tidy and well maintained.
There were two staff members on the tills and both were friendly and efficient.
PROGNOSIS: Top 50 Indies Symonds Forecourts is a family business with a distinguished heritage in the grocery market. Since 2007 the business has focused on petrol retailing and has grown to a network of nine forecourt sites mostly in the West Country.
The Budgens of Wells site is a total rebuild and is the product of detailed planning and development showing a keen appreciation of market location and shopper needs. The forecourt offers a standard range of services that are taken to a new level by the provision of the Forecourt Attendant Service.
DIAGNOSIS: Recent press coverage in Forecourt Trader reports that the Symonds group has developed a ’winning team mentality’. It is clear that this results in a good marketing plan. Perhaps a fundamental key to progress is the establishment of the Symonds Management Academy, developing staff management skills for now and the future.
PRESCRIPTION: Budgens of Wells has targeted areas of Wells with consumer gift bags and leaflets. The company runs community charity events and proactively uses Facebook. It introduced various successful marketing initiatives when Morrisons recently opened a store in the city.
It is always easy to find a few faults during a Stealth Check and thus mark a business down but on this occasion I am awarding five stars. I am very impressed.
My recommendation to Budgens of Wells is to carry on and keep working on new ways to further expand the business. To other forecourt/c-store operators, my recommendation is to make a visit!