LOCATION: Located on the busy A20 in West Malling, Kent my stealth check target is the prize-winning Parkfoot Garage. The site won the first Forecourt Trader of the Year award in 1996 and, for the past four years, has been the Best Site in London & South East in the 4mlpa plus category. Now that’s consistency and surely worth another visit.
FORECOURT: The site open 24 hours and at Christmas is clearly visible and two brands stand out BP and Spar. The forecourt is large with a number of designated parking spaces in two areas the air-line and water service point is located on one of the areas and access to this was blocked during my visit by parked cars. The approach to the four double-sided islands of pumps and separate gas-oil pump is good and each was in constant use and carrying a number of pump-top offers promoting both in-store services, the butcher and non-food offers.
Fuel prices were competitive.
To the rear of the shop is a clearly popular state-of-the-art Aquatec car wash centre Parkfoot has its own bore hole so has no water issues. It offers a number of car washes and jet wash positions with a menu of choices. Services also include two vacuum cleaners, a mat wash and a paper dispenser for drivers to wipe round doors after car cleaning. An Aquatec Card is available that offers half-price washes.
Along the front perimeter of the site, a number of signs promote various services and offers two flags promoting Spar are well past their best, giving a rather shabby aspect on approach.
The forecourt is impressive with lots going on.
SHOP: Through automatic sliding doors and into the shop it too looks impressive. Up front, and perhaps a little in your face, are two Tchibo hot drinks dispensers. The large display of flowers made a potentially attractive welcome but this was ruined by the bunches of dying brown gladioli not even discounted!
On past a great produce section with a very wide range of fresh-looking products, well displayed but none were marked ’local’. I liked the display of bananas!
A highlight of the shop is the large butchery and fish serve-over counter, which is superb with many types and cuts of unwrapped meat and a great number of ’specials’. Opposite the butchery counter, is the self-fill olive oil and balsamic vinegar point; and also cabinets of Cook frozen ready meals.
The packaged grocery section is extensive. Some Spar branded, some brand-leading products, some slightly more unusual and some local products. All in all a fascinating range of options but I would have liked to have seen many more details about the locally produced ranges.
Food-to-go is well catered for and includes: the hot drinks bars with a range of pastries, soft drinks, the serve-over deli counter (with hot food and made-to-order sandwiches), branded sandwiches and savoury products.
Wines and beers are well displayed in the off-licence section.
The one toilet is kept in very good order and was suitable for disabled people.
Parkfoot has an informative website, is on Facebook and is a generous supporter of local community events, but I saw little evidence of this in-store. There were a good number of staff working around the shop and the members on the checkouts were efficient and friendly.
PROGNOSIS: This family enterprise was established in 1948 and since then has developed enormously. The business keeps ahead of competition and continues to thrive.
DIAGNOSIS: The desire to meet and exceed customer needs helps to out-perform less focused competitors.
PRESCRIPTION: According to a recent YouGov poll, over 70% of UK shoppers say that buying local produce is important. This result fully underpins the Parkfoot action in supporting so many local suppliers. But, it would be really good to further differentiate these by more detailed labelling.
Regular ’management-by-walkabout’ would eradicate the Spar flags/gladioli-type issues
This enterprise is certainly worth a visit and I am sure they will continue the positive momentum for the business that they have consistently shown over the years.
KEY FEATURES - FORECOURT
Airline & water
ATM free to use
Car wash/jet wash
Wood, coal & charcoal
KEY FEATURES SHOP
Cigarettes & tobacco
Frozen foods Cook
Hot Drinks Tchibo
News & Magazines
Self-fill olive oil & vinegar
Spar brand products