Just outside Windermere, on the A591, is the small village of Ings and my target its service station. The forecourt and shop are co-located and part of a large area that also includes a significant parking area, a restaurant/motel (now closed and boarded up) and one of The Lakeland Motorhome Centres. The entrance to the motorhome showroom is right next to the forecourt shop.
The service station is well signed with the Esso-branded pole, air flags and canopy all very visible. However, the immediate approach has a large rather neglected parking area and there’s the deteriorating motel, but the forecourt restores matters and is bright and well maintained.
There are four islands of pumps, each clean and working. The fuel price was competitive with other forecourts in the wider area but during my visit trade was slow-to-steady. A number of signs and poster boards advertise various services but none promote these by price. So I had no idea what the price of a Costa coffee would be.
Forecourt services include an air-line, Calor Gas, jet wash and vacuum. To the front of the shop there are winter and barbecue fuels and a small display of flowers.
The Esso red fascia simply states ’Ings Services’ and then ’shop’. I was expecting a smallish shop so was surprised at its space. To the left of the entrance is an area that leads to the customer toilets and that includes a long display of tourist information leaflets. I think this constitutes the ’Information Centre’ that was highlighted on roadside signs.
The shop offers a number of the key convenience categories including beers, wines and spirits. Ranges are limited but include items for tourists. For example, I was attracted to a good range of local maps and guide books and one of the specialities of the area Kendal Mint Cake.
In addition to the Costa Express other eat now/take out lines included sandwiches, rolls, pies and savoury products. A microwave is available to use.
Ranges that are experiencing increased sales in convenience stores are missing noticeably produce (in fairness there was one pack of apples in the chiller) and locally produced artisan products.
The one member of staff in store was friendly and efficient.
As an enterprise, the Ings Service Station appears to be a business in transition.
Its location is fine at one of the southern gateways to the Lake District although the immediate environment is spoiled by the abandoned parking area and near- derelict motel.
On reflection I think it may be a closed Little Chef and the shop may have been a member of Mace. So, both have a past, but what about the future?
Probably in the short term, nothing can be done about the closed Little Chef but it would help enhance the appearance of the forecourt and shop and also the Lakeland Motorhome Centre if the parking space and empty building were tided up and kept in good order. The forecourt owners and ES Hartley Ltd, the owners of the Motorhome Centre, should exert pressure on the site’s landlords.
The location of the Ings Service station would suggest that the majority of its trade is passing traffic, so the need to maintain a competitive fuel price is paramount.
It’s good to have promotion information on the forecourt, but the communication of the message needs to be strengthened by the addition of prices.
Recent research indicates that ATMs drive footfall, loyalty and in-store spend. A priority for Ings Service Station should be the installation of a free-to-use ATM.
The management clearly recognises the opportunity of the Lake District’s massive holiday trade. The maps, guides and holiday gift offerings should be extended and promoted more effectively.
In the village is the Ings Hall Caravan Park, which must offer the opportunity of some joint marketing such as shop discounts and welcome packs. Embrace technology and develop a ’click & collect’ service and exploit other social media opportunities.
Signs are quite positive for the forecourt convenience store and Ings Service Station has potential.