Not far from the M11, in an affluent part of the Essex countryside.
The site is easily identifiable thanks to its yellow and red canopy and the big Shell logo on the top of the pole sign. The petrol station and Budgens store share the space with an MOT centre. Signage around the site promotes the Shell Pump Challenge, where you can get extra Shell Drivers’ Club points for filling up with Shell V-Power. There is also signage for Budgens’ Autumn Value campaign.
There is a stone lion mounted on a plinth in quite a prominent position in the car park. It caught my eye and I asked a member of staff about it. The story goes that it is an original Shell stone lion from Shell’s old HQ. How it ended up on the site is a bit of a mystery, but it has been there for years and has become a bit of a talking point.
A sign on the forecourt requests that people who will be shopping inside use the car park at the side of the shop. There is also a sign saying parking is free for people using the shop for 30 minutes.
It was a windy day when I visited and there was a member of staff outside picking up litter.
There are baskets and trolleys at the entrance, which is helpful because of the huge range of goods inside.
There’s a brilliant off licence section with loads of offers. Wines of the Month are displayed on a gondola end and a lot of the bigger packs of beer are on offer at £9 or £10. Bottles of ale are displayed at three for a fiver. There is signage up for Budgens Beer & Cider Festival, which explained all those excellent offers. But the off licence isn’t all about value, the premiumisation trend in alcohol is catered for with some premium wines at £30 and £40 a bottle.
There are lots of modern chillers with signs on the doors telling shoppers that these are energy efficient bits of kit. Plus there are lots of offers in the chillers on Tropicana and Naked juices, on Pizza Express pizzas and on Yeo Valley yogurts, for example. There’s a wide range of fresh meat including lamb, mince and whole chickens as well as sausages from a local butcher. And there is loads of fresh fruit and veg making the ’meal for tonight’ mission a breeze.
Premium brands are dotted about such as Charlie Bigham’s in the chillers as well as Cook in the designated frozen food freezers.
The big food trends seem to be covered, with a healthy snack and a gluten free section. There was a rather nice cake and scone display in one part of the shop.
There were a few gaps on some of the shelves.
There’s an Express Lane at the till for fuel only/five items or less shoppers. And the shop has invested in a Queue Buster hand- held tablet for busy times. It was not in use during my visit but must definitely come in handy when the store gets busy.
The staff at the till were very chatty and helpful.
The shop had the cleanest toilet I have ever seen. The room was all tiled in white and had two large framed prints of Shell artwork on the walls. It was all absolutely spotless.
This site was the subject of a Shop Doctor visit way back in 2004, the year the Shop Doc first started making his visits! Then it scored an overall 3.5/5 and was marked down for having limited parking, litter on the forecourt and a dirty toilet. In 2004, the store traded under the Mace Express banner.
What a difference 14 years makes. The site and shop are superb. Budgens is, of course, known for its fresh and chilled offer and this shop really shows it off well. The cleanliness is second to none and the staff are a delight.
My only comment really is that perhaps there could be a few more local lines. Also I wondered whether the 30-minute parking limit was necessary. I queried it and apparently it’s not ’policed’ as such. And only once so far has someone taken advantage when they parked their car there and went away on holiday!
Atm (free to use)
Cigarettes & tobacco
Fruit & veg