High Noon Northbound Services is on the busy A40 between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye at Symonds Yat. High Noon Stores won The Grocer Gold Award in 2014 as the Independent Retail Chain of the Year, so I was keen to visit this site in such a popular tourist destination.
The total site is massive. Much of the rough ground is used as a lorry park and designated parking at the rear of the shop for the High Noon café/restaurant and Spar shop. The sign to the ’Car Park & Café’ should be a little bolder. The café is branded Route 40 and the rear entrance leads directly to the café (with free wi-fi), shop, customer toilets/shower room and a games arcade.
There is some space at the front of the building for forecourt-only customers.
The Murco-branded canopy covers four islands of pumps some nozzles were not working and each island looked in need of a good clean. However, fuel trade was brisk. The price for fuel was competitive at some 2ppl less than the local competition. The separate HGV lanes were in constant use.
Although not short of space, I was surprised to find that there were no car/jet wash facilities or other vehicle services.
In front of the shop there are two bins one with closed cardboard boxes (I opened one and it contained screen wash), the other bin contained logs and kindling but no barbecue goods although the season was fast approaching.
There are some signs and advertising around the shop entrance (Spar, PayPoint and lottery) and in the shop window a frieze with images of fresh food.
The total restaurant/shop building is vast but the external Spar imagery quite small and although there are Spar-banded sleeves on posts near the front entrance, it all seemed a little drab.
Immediately inside the building there is a foyer-type space that includes a Travel Information display unit with lots of leaflets.
The shop is quite large. To the left and towards the till area is an ATM (it charges £1.75 per transaction) and the usual range of snacks and confectionery. At the opposite side of the shop is a large dedicated Red Bull refrigerated display cabinet but it only contained a few cans. That aisle leads to the Costa Express unit and off licence section. A centre aisle has a run of non-food items all priced at £1. To me the section looked a bit of a mess and all the merchandise rather cheap but not very cheerful.
Spar brand products are stocked and there were a number of Spar ’Real Deal’ offers at shelf ends.
Some growth commodity groups were missing mainly frozen foods, flowers and produce (they did have a small ’grab & go’ display priced at £1 but the bananas were green).
The customer toilets are dated in their décor and need freshening up. They are probably not checked very often there was lots of discarded toilet paper on the floor.
Launched about six years ago, High Noon Stores operate some 12 convenience stores and forecourts across South Wales and the South West. The firm aims to fill a perceived gap in the market for convenience stores in semi-rural locations in small towns. For each outlet they pursue an aggressive growth strategy and an increase in local activities tailored to its community (competitively priced fuels).
For their forecourts they are partnered with Spar and Murco.
Convenience stores in the forecourt sector continue to evolve, driven now by the change in consumers’ shopping patterns as they shop little and often.
I found the forecourt and shop front rather dull and not at all engaging. Some forecourt promotional material may help. Label and price the screen wash for a start.
In time for summer, introduce instant barbecuess, charcoal and lighter fuel.
In the shop foyer, they should be exploiting the attractive Wye Valley and Forest of Dean area.
Redecorate the toilet and introduce a cleaning rota.
It is estimated that over 90% of cash withdrawals are from free-to-use machines. Give consideration to changing to a free-to-use service and then promoting that change.