LOCATION: MRH Feering is located on the busy A12 London Road, northbound towards Colchester.
The forecourt is on a large site that also includes a Little Chef/Burger King and a Travel Lodge.
FORECOURT: Competitive fuel prices are illuminated on the pole and the forecourt is clearly identified by a very large Esso-branded canopy. There are three islands of pumps each in fairly constant use during my visit. The bold Esso Synergy-branded pumps were clean and all working.
To the left of the shop is an exit route and three lanes leading to HGV diesel-fuelling points.
There are large banners across the site promoting various deals as well as Tesco Clubcard flags.
To the right of the shop is an air line, water and screenwash point.
In front of the shop is an ATM, with a £1.99 service charge, Car Plan screenwash, barbecue and other solid fuels and a newspaper display unit.
The shop front and fascia is a mass of information and includes a Hursts section in corporate purple with eight oval shapes promoting site services including Costa Express, Cash Machine, Open 24 hours and collect + parcel service. All very busy and the shop window adds to this flood of information. There’s also a section promoting Subway.
SHOP: The shop is of moderate size with a narrow section on the right housing the Subway. The serve-over counter and seating area is tight but doing steady business. The till area is at the opposite end of the store and in the corner there are three Costa Express units. There were a number of food on-the-go offerings including hot dogs and sandwiches. I purchased a Sutherland Deli BLT sandwich as part of a meal deal. A good price but the quality was disappointing. There was the usual wide range of confectionery, snacks and soft drinks.
The size of store limits shelf space so the packaged grocery range is basic. Store size also prevents the availability of various c-store categories such as fresh or local produce.
It is reported that MRH is to upgrade its washrooms at a cost of more than £1m and that the flagship prototype has been installed here at Feering, which is the main reason for my visit.
The area is impressive with separate ladies, gents, disabled and baby changing facilities. The colour theme is grey and there is a feature wall with a modern night-time motorway picture. I very much liked the gender signs on the doors and the stylish wash basins and lighting. In the gents there are two toilets but no urinals and both the toilet seats were wet and rather unpleasant.
The sales assistant on the till was helpful, efficient and a great advert for this MRH Hursts.
PROGNOSIS: MRH currently has over 480 sites across the UK. The firm’s new logo is MRH Driving Retail and for its own retail brand Hursts ’A Little Bit Of Everything’. Clearly a lot is happening at MRH.
DIAGNOSIS: I expect this site is constantly busy given its location off the A12 and being open for 24 hours. Its size must present various management issues but in the main it seems to be coping.
PRESCRIPTION: I have two issues with what I found on my visit.
Firstly, the clutter of messages on the forecourt. Research suggests that too many choices and options can stall consumer decision making. After refuelling it is possible that drivers choose no in-store offering at all. Less options may result in more sales.
The second is the prototype washroom. For ages I have been urging forecourt operators to provide first class and well maintained customer toilet facilities. Great that MRH are making their washrooms a priority. Regrettably, the evidence of the mis-used toilets indicates that some users are lazy can’t be bothered to lift the seat and can’t aim straight! The remedy? Notices asking users to lift the seat and a target inside the bottom of the loo! They have been proved to help with aim. Or, the installation of urinals?