Strategically positioned on the A315 Chiswick High Road, and right on top of a slip road entrance to the A4 Great West Road, is the Esso/On the Run site. High volumes of traffic must pass the site continuously. What a location but is the site capitalising on the potential?
Entry to the spacious site is exclusively for traffic (and there’s plenty of it) going west.
There are five islands of pumps located under a long Esso-branded canopy. The pumps, with their 30 nozzles, were clean and in good working order. Most positions were busy. A pay-at-the-pump facility was available. Fuel prices were competitive.
Air and water was available but no car wash. An adequate number of designated parking spaces are available in front of the shop.
Above the shop runs the familiar yellow fascia with the Esso-owned brand name ’On the Run’. On the walls either side of the shop front are ’On the Run Café’ and ’Costa’ signs. Just under the fascia is an illustrated banner (cans of beer etc) with the legend ’Get a Cold One’.
Once in the shop, the comfortable café area with its serve-over counter is to the right, the tills are straight ahead and the convenience store is to the left.
The café environment was somewhat spoiled by a number of discarded newspapers lying around. The hot food offering looked a little tired. There was a wide range of chilled beverages, salted snacks and confectionery.
On the other hand, the grocery section is pared right down to a basic top-up offering. A combined milk and bread deal was sold out!
A tight off-licence range fulfilled the ’Get a Cold One’ slogan as many products were in the chillers.
The car care section looked very out of season with a large stock of de-icer products piled up.
The customer toilet area was a disaster smelly and the disabled unit was out of order.
On the Run is the flagship convenience store brand developed by ExxonMobil across the globe. In the UK, Esso’s convenience stores are operated by the wholly-owned subsidiary ROC Ltd. The On the Run philosophy seems to be driven by the aspiration to meet the needs of the busy customer in terms of a one-stop-shop for beverages and snacks. A philosophy driven by market research and designed to meet customer demands for a fast, fresh and friendly service. It has appeared to work well.
It’s now a proven formula but still one that demands a great company support structure to be at its best. Good sites, forecourts and shops and an excellent supply chain. But, almost above all else, exemplary staff.
With consumer trends changing using the car less to save fuel, shopping more often but buying less on each occasion will the On the Run philosophy generate the required shop sales in the future?
Consumer research consistently indicates that some of the most important features in a convenience store are stock availability, helpful friendly staff and speed of service.
In some of my previous ’stealth check’ reports on my visits to Esso On the Run sites they do not score consistently well on these aspects.
This Esso On the Run service station, with its convenient site and competitive fuel prices, will almost certainly maintain a good volume of sales but what of the shop?
Clearly some customers will continue to be looking for a fast beverage/snack service and they should work hard to maintain this. However, serious attention should be focused on the shop.
The customer loos demand the most urgent attention.
The café area should be kept clean and tidy at all times.
The ’sold out’ bread and milk promotion is perhaps an indication that some of their customers are not all ’on the run’ but are looking for good value-for-money bargains. These should be extended and given more prominence in store.
I wonder if regular customers approach the site with anticipation of a pleasing shopping experience? A change to the environment and promotion programme may help to stimulate additional turnover.