LOCATION: A free tourist guide to North Norfolk gives a warning to motorists that they may find petrol stations tricky to find. It then gives a list of towns with a filling station so a pin in the list and I find myself off to do a stealth check in Burnham Market.
The Burnham Motors Garage (signed Station Garage) is located on Creake Road (B1355), a little south of the main town. The garage is on a large site shared with several other businesses, including a Chinese takeaway, a fish and chip shop, a furniture showroom and workshop and a display of The Classic Shed Co structures.
FORECOURT: The four pump islands are covered by a large distinctive Gulf-branded canopy. Pole prices were (by 1ppl) the cheapest I had seen on my travels in Norfolk. The pumps needed cleaning.
Along the front of the site and to one side were a number of used vehicles for sale. Cars were parked haphazardly around the site. The workshop looked busy.
Front-of-shop services are limited to a Calor Gas service, an air line and solid fuel.
SHOP: Given the space available on the end of the building, the Station Garage shop has a very small Mace- branded fascia that still includes the old strapline ’whenever whatever’. And the shop door and entrance is one of the shabbiest I have ever seen.
Probably at around 800sq ft, the shop is an irregular size and seemed rather gloomy but with sufficient space to offer all the main convenience store categories.
Research indicates that in the c-store sector top-up remains a primary shopper mission and sales of coffee-to-go and food-to-go are booming. So, it’s worth checking out how this shop is performing in these areas.
A Kenco hot coffee machine was available and there was evidence that it was used the counter needed cleaning! A microwave was available and a number of snacks that could be heated were on offer in a chiller at the back of the shop.
Newspapers (many titles upside down!) and magazines were located in the left hand corner of the shop too far for a fuel customer to pick one up on impulse. Milk and bread were available but produce was limited to some packs of tomatoes. A range of beers and ciders (some local), wines and spirits were on offer but the display was rather marred by handwritten (and rather scruffy) shelf ticketing. So, a number of essential boxes ticked, but room for improvement.
Some local products were stocked but could be merchandised and promoted to greater effect.
Holiday toys were supported by handwritten signs.
The in-store ATM does not charge for transactions and there is a board for local notices. There are no customer toilet facilities available.
My fuel and food purchase transaction was conducted by a male member of staff who was polite but seemed more interested in getting back to work on some papers on his desk.
PROGNOSIS: The brand proposition for Mace is described as ’Mace are the quick stop shop, functional, full of choice, easy to navigate, convenient, open all hours, straight forward basically, Mace quite simply ’Makes it easy!’’.
The Station Garage meets most of these propositions but falls short of exploiting them to the full.
DIAGNOSIS: Station Garage has the opportunity to develop their business if they have the ambition. Burnham Market is an upmarket destination and this forecourt and convenience store should be more aspirational.
PRESCRIPTION: Both the forecourt and shop need a big dose of TLC. The pumps need cleaning, the entrance door mat replacing, the shelf tickets improved, the shop tidied and lighting improved perhaps by changing to LED.
Here are some additional action points that could be taken now:
Promote the free-to-use ATM more
Coffee-to-go produce a menu and price list and introduce a loyalty scheme
Advertise off licence deals on A-boards outside the shop
Expand the range of local products and promote it
Add a parcel service
Promote the forecourt, shop and services to the nearby Poplars Holiday Park.
So, a host of opportunities to develop this business further and to squash any concept of indifference.