Location: On the busy Reigate Hill, just off junction 8 of the M25.
This site is easy to find off the ultra-busy Reigate Hill thanks to the huge Esso lozenge on the pole sign. Under the Esso name it says Shop ’n Drive.
There’s quite a big forecourt area, much of which doesn’t looked used but I am presuming it’s used by traffic queuing to get on and off the site.
There’s plenty of signage highlighting that the premium Synergy fuel is available but the basic fuel itself seemed pricey.
Much is made of the fact that this as an Esso site where customers can collect Tesco Clubcard points banners remind drivers about this.
There’s actually a lot going on banner-wise. There are big banners promoting the free-to-use cash machine as well as banners with the messages: ’Fresh sandwiches in store’ and ’Value booze in store’.
There’s an A-board for Costa Coffee and plenty of pos promoting Coca-Cola flavours.
There are your typical screenwash, barbecue items, newspapers and flowers directly outside the shop.
There’s limited parking on-site; I couldn’t see any designated spaces. But there are two Biffa waste bins next to the Calor gas, one full with rubbish, which is bulging and raising the lid.
The Shop ’n Drive Shop is tiny, with everything shoe-horned in. Obviously the 24-hour off licence must be a big draw as there are stacks of beer placed everywhere imaginable.
Sandwiches and snacks are directly in front of you when you walk in, then there are two Costa Express machines. But the extent to which stock is crammed in is illustrated by the fact that between the two Costa Express machines there are stacks of toilet rolls and boxes of Foster’s and Strongbow wedged in to the left of the coffee units. It’s actually rather impressive how many departments they have got in this tiny shop.
They have compact household, toiletries, petfood and car care ranges, for example. Then there are sunglasses clipped to a strip and sited between the Bisto and the Domestos!
There are plenty of Wow deals eg Cheestrings ’3 for £1’, milk any two 2ltr for £2.25 and Peroni beer for a fiver. Plus there are lots of price-marked packs.
At the crisps section a clip strip for nuts was nearly empty and the shelf containing smaller packs of milk needed topping up.
In the short run to the till, there’s an ice cream freezer, then phone accessories then confectionery. Your are then met with a ’Remember to scan your Clubcard when you fill up at Esso’ message on the floor.
Not surprisingly there is no customer toilet as there’s no space for one.
This is a Rontec Roadside Retail site, one of 240 in the UK. Last year the company was busy integrating the 34 Co-op sites it had bought into the business. It has also been occupied with introducing Morrisons onto 38 sites.
On the Rontec website, it says that customers see their Shop ’n Drive stores as ’bright, modern and clean’ and that they consistently score highly in quarterly customer research.
There’s no doubt that this is a busy site that’s doing well. The shop is small and although you can understand why there’s the ’cram in everything you can’ philosophy, it’s not ideal. But if every item is earning its space, then you can see why it’s like it is.
I wonder whether instead of shoe-horning in every product department, this site should perhaps stick to doing the ’Shop ’n Drive’ departments such as soft drinks, confectionery, snacks and BWS really well. There does seem a lot of wasted space on the forecourt itself and you could see it benefiting from a KDRB to bring it up to 21st century standards but whether the huge investment would be justified sales-wise is arguable.