Location: On the A351, on the outskirts of Wareham
Forecourt: This site is easy to locate thanks to the pole sign with the Texaco star at the top, the illuminated fuel prices and the Co-op logo. The bold Texaco branding on the forecourt canopy helps too. It’s an impressive forecourt area. The Texaco canopy covers the pumps, but not the route to the shop so you get wet if it’s raining. There’s plenty of parking, including designated Parent and Child spaces. Bunkers outside the shop, which should have been full of fire wood, were nearly empty. A-frames promote the Hermes parcel service and Rollover hot dogs, and signage across the site invites people to join the Co-op for £1.
Shop: The shop itself is good new, bright and well laid out. Well, the fixtures and fittings were well laid out. The stock was another story.
I have never seen so many gaps in so many departments. For a start, gondola ends with promotional products on them were half full and not just on one gondola end but across the shop. And there were huge gaps on shelves everywhere.
For example, there was no Diet Coke in the chiller (it was available off an ambient display) and no Red Bull. There were loads more gaps in the soft drinks chiller. Two members of staff were standing near the drinks chiller so I asked them if they had any Red Bull out the back. One said she’d go and have a look but there was no apology and no sense of urgency as she went to look. However, she did come back with a can.
In the ambient soft drinks section there were also massive gaps. There were gaps in the fruit and veg display, in chilled meats, in bread. A small toiletries display was only half full. And the car care section needed facing up. I’m sure you get the picture.
The warm pastry unit was virtually empty but there was a Rollover hot dog unit and the person I was travelling with enjoyed a hot dog.
On the plus side, there was a good confectionery range and there was a very good snacks/protein products range and although it had been well shopped, there were still products available.
There were also some good deals along the window en route to the tills.
The lady who served me at the till was very polite but seemed oblivious to the availability problems. I asked if they had had a rush on and she said they were always busy and there was a festival nearby so they had been even busier. I asked if they needed more staff and she said they had more than they’d ever had!
There is a customer toilet, which was clean and tidy.
Prognosis: This forecourt should be good as it was recently the subject of a £1.9m redevelopment which included extending the shop to nearly 3,000sq ft. At the time of the re-opening Co-op said the company’s ambition was to make the store a ’local hub for people living in the area’ and a ’real asset locally’.
Diagnosis: Within months of opening, Texaco reported an impressive 28% increase in fuel sales at Sandford. I wonder what the shop sales are like? The range that should have been available, ie as indicated in shop signage, was excellent but at the time of my visit it just wasn’t there.
Prescription: It’s a shame that this redeveloped store is let down so badly by its staff. That may sound harsh but surely it is down to them as they can see the empty shelves as clearly as I could on my short visit.
It may have been a one-off, given that there was a festival nearby, but I have my doubts.
Before I spoke to the two members of staff on the shopfloor they had seemed to be more interested in chatting than doing anything else.
The site might be an asset locally if you want to fill up your car but not if you want to fill up a trolley with food and drink.