A Forecourt Trader reader suggested a visit to a site with friendly staff, Joblings Garage in Bicester. It is a BP/Mace site, right next door to the Joblings
family’s official Kia and Peugeot new and used motor business.
The garage, with its BP corporate pole and large canopy, is easily seen as I approach. Along the roadside there are a number of display banners, flags and boards plus two planters containing daffodils. It’s all a bit of a clutter with lots of messages ranging from Nectar points, a £1 Pepsi/Walkers crisps deal and the lottery, through to the BP Ultimate ’More miles per tank’ theme.
There are two large entrances/exits but due to its limited space, vehicle movements on the forecourt were tight. Parking spaces are severely limited.
There are four islands of pumps (busy) and prices for both unleaded and diesel were competitive. The pump islands, which were clean with most nozzles working, were all topped with an array of offers.
To the left of the pumps is a busy corner. It includes a Calor Gas cage, air, water and vacuum services as well as car and jet wash facilities. All apart from the Calor Gas service were in use, with some vehicles waiting in line.
Shop front offers were limited to winter and barbecue fuels.
The Mace branded fascia includes the corporate strapline ’Whenever, whatever’. As you would expect from a Mace store, the shop is bright, well laid out and appears to offer the main c-store categories.
The shop is filled with the tempting aroma of frying bacon and I am drawn to its source! In the right hand corner is a serve-over hot food/drinks counter and a member of staff is preparing a bacon roll for a customer. Wow, it’s very tempting to order one and makes me think it could be a good thing to have some sizzling bacon aroma all morning long! A table and two stools are provided for those customers wishing to eat/drink in-store.
The shop layout, merchandising and promotional offers are all good but pretty standard. Along the back of the shop, the long run of chiller cabinets is clean and bright, and the range appealing. Am not sure whether the toys and gift section will pay for the space it occupies.
A number of key ranges are missing chiefly no ATM, off licence section and no produce or flowers. Also, apart from the sandwiches that are labelled Joblings and are made in store and some packs of fresh meat, I could not find any ’local’ products.
The customer toilets were in good order but the walls were in need of some redecoration.
The staff were friendly and the lady on the till was pleasant and efficient.
I found this an interesting and generally well-managed store and welcomed the suggestion to visit.
The site is located in an area of good potential, having a mix of housing and light commercial businesses in its catchment area. It is opposite a busy Aldi. So, lots of local households (for at least top-up shopping) and passing drivers that may be attracted by the forecourt services and food-to-go offerings such as a bacon roll and coffee promotion.
The Costcutter/Palmer & Harvey (P&H) deal creating The Buyco may not have many immediate consequences for Joblings Garage. P&H has committed to providing all customers with a consistent service and Mace retailers must trust that this happens and that the Costcutter lead enterprise continues to drive the development of their chosen symbol group.
Of great potential help to retailers is the availability from most symbol groups of retail development/management teams, and it is to be hoped that this service continues.
In planning the future growth of the shop, the Joblings Garage team may well consult with the Mace business advice team. Areas of development could include: the creation of a Joblings Garage BP/Mace website, perhaps with Facebook and Twitter; the introduction of an ATM; promotion to local businesses (leaflet drops) and also to drivers passing (posters on A-boards) of hot food-to-go offers; the introduction of a loyalty scheme; the addition of a range of local products; and a rethink of the access to the car/jet wash area to see if it can be made less congested.