LOCATION: This site is on the busy A607, also known as Leicester’s Golden Mile.
FORECOURT: This is a very impressive looking site. It is clearly signed from the busy main road with the BP sign as well as Spar, Costa Express and Subway branding plus the fuel prices, which were very competitive.
The forecourt area is extremely spacious and clean with signage at the pumps saying ’extra long hose’ to encourage drivers to use both sides and help keep queues down. There is a fantastic canopy from the pumps to the Spar-branded store, which is really eye-catching and must have cost a fortune.
There are a fair few parking spaces directly in front of the store as well as the usual newspaper stands. A ’2 for £2’ offer on milk also greets shoppers.
There’s a smart looking Buy Time jet wash area with plenty of room to manoeuvre. And a big banner tells customers they can get Double Nectar points with BP Ultimate fuel.
Shop: Signage on the shop highlights the Spar, Subway, Costa Express and the Café@HKS as well as the fact that it’s a 24-hour site with a 24-hour off licence, has a free-to-use ATM and free-to-use wifi. There’s no doubting the work that went into designing and developing this store. It definitely looks the part but, unfortunately on the day of my visit, didn’t deliver on many key things.
I’ll start with the pros. The presence of a Subway meant a nice smell permeated through the shop and definitely made you want to buy something to eat.
There are a lot of ethnic foods to choose from and a good selection of fresh fruit and vegetables including loads of pineapples.
The toilets were pristine and the shop assistants were polite and helpful, asking if I had a Nectar card, for example.
The off licence section of the store was being relaid during the time of my visit, so there were stacks of beer on the floor. That’s not a problem as these things need to be done and do take time. However, adjacent to the Subway was a shopping trolley and shopping baskets full of Doritos and other snacks. I was not sure if this was meant to be a promotional display or had just been dumped there. There were also huge gaps in displays the cheese part of the chiller looked like an army of mice had been through it. There were also big gaps in the sandwich display. A lunch meal deal was highlighted but the gaps on the shelves didn’t really encourage you to buy anything. Unfortunately the gaps didn’t end there. The Bake & Bite stand next to the Costa Express was empty and there was a red Coca-Cola display stand in one corner with space for 36 bottles and it was empty. Another hot food unit in the Café area was empty. Apparently the Café has been a massive hit with kids who buy coffees and subs then sit at the counter and use the wifi. But during my visit at 11am on a weekday in the school holidays, the place was deserted.
In the biscuit aisle, a big basket of biscuits was abandoned in front of the shelves and a one-metre bay of five shelves was completely empty.
Prognosis: HKS Sandringham is the group’s flagship site. It opened in 2015 to much fanfare and was praised for its impressive design.
Diagnosis: People in the industry had said to me that this was a ’must see’ site so I was severely disappointed. Yes, it looked the part of a modern forecourt, but it just didn’t deliver on the day for me. A definite case of style over substance.
Prescription: The forecourt facilities are fab but management of the shop, stock-wise was appalling when I visited. There’s a definite need to get back to basics, ensuring shelves are kept filled at all times and that items are just not abandoned mid-store.
If my visit was typical at school holiday time ie that the café was deserted, then a plan needs to be put in place to attract more customers. After all there are loads of school holidays throughout the year. Not every kid goes away, so there needs to be something to attract them to the site when they are not en route to school.
It may well have been the case that my visit coincided with a non-delivery or staff off sick. Such things happen to the best of us so I am hoping that this was just a one-off and usually things are better.