The site is easily recognisable from the busy A27 thanks to the bright blue branding of the pole sign and canopy. The Power brand tops the pole sign with the words ’A Local Fuels Brand’ underneath. Then there are the prices, the words: 24 hour off licence, Price Watch Local and Smokin’ Bean coffee.
Banners across the site promote Power Premium Clean Fuels, stating: "No waste cooking oil; not corrosive; kind to your engine; more power; and better fuel economy". There are two HGV pumps round the back of the shop.
The shop has a green Price Watch Local fascia and there are posters advertising a £3.29 meal deal and ’Amazing value’ wine.
There are plenty of items piled up outside under the window: screenwash, logs, footballs, flowers and newspapers.
A photo on the side of the shop says ’Welcome to the South Downs National Park’ and there’s a map of other Power stations in the region.
When you enter the shop, the counter is over to your left with a big Price Watch Local logo across the front. The floor in the main part of the shop is tiled but many of the tiles are cracked. To the right of the counter, there is a separate area that has a wooden floor. This houses the coffee-to-go as well as non-foods and pet food, and leads to the toilet.
I was keen to see the coffee-to-go area as Lewes Service Station won the Best Hot Beverages award at last year’s Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards. It’s an impressive part of the shop with an upmarket feel thanks to its faux brick wall and rustic lighting.
In the chillers, there’s a small range of fresh meat plus some tasty looking trays of Fresh Bite biryani and curry. There are lots of Ginsters and Peters pastries and also some Fresh Bite subs.
There’s a very on-trend sign on the chiller saying compostable spoons are available at the counter. There are lots of Rustlers products and a microwave over by the Smokin’ Bean area, but no signage at the chiller to say so.
There’s a limited fresh produce range, comprising the basics.
There are some gaps on the shelves and there is a rotating card display with lots of gaps.
Local Fuels is an independent, family-run business with 12 forecourts. It purchased the site in 2014, knowing that it needed urgent improvements to the storage and dispensing arrangements. Because of its location (in the South Downs National Park) the company worked with the Environment Agency to ensure the alterations were done to spec.
Whatever their shopping mission be it fuel-only or fuel and lunch today’s consumers expect a lot from their forecourt store. They demand certain products and they also demand that these products be easy to find, especially if they’re in a hurry.
First up, I’d recommend that they tidy up outside the store as the vast array of products looks a little messy.
As for the shop itself, I wonder if it had been laid out by a professional as it seems a bit muddled. I imagine it was for plumbing reasons that the Smokin’ Bean area is so far away from the rest of the food-to-go. While the Smokin’ Bean area looked impressive and the hot chocolate was delicious, there were lots of crumbs on the counter and the bin was wedged open because it was full. It’s small things like these that detract from the intended ’premium’ experience. And it’s a shame there’s no seating area where you can enjoy your coffee.
Apparently the toilets had been refurbished, but I think they need further attention. There’s an inspection rota but it was completely blank. It’s good that the facilities are available but it’s all very basic and a bit scruffy. The toilet has the tiniest bin imaginable. And there’s a mop and bucket next to the sink, perhaps to clean up after yourself?