The Esso Snack & Shop Wellington Service Station is virtually located on an ’island’! An island made up of the Archway Road (A1) and North Hill that joins Aylmer Road and leads onto the North Circular with its access to the M1. Traffic is constant, at times horrific, and there is very little access for pedestrians. I was interested to see how the 24/7 Wellington Service Station managed its shop offering to what must mainly be vehicle-based customers.
The pump prices were about 1ppl above other service stations in the area but during my visit there was a steady flow of vehicles being refuelled. Some of the nozzles were covered and not available and the pump islands looked tired as if a dose of TLC was somewhat overdue.
Parking is limited and there are no clearly designated spaces.
The airline/compressor (to the front of the site) was marked ’out of order’. The ATM (£1.95 to withdraw cash), barbecue fuels and newspapers are at the front of the shop. There are rather discreet signs promoting Clubcard points on purchases on the pump islands and posters promoting double Clubcard points on Supreme fuels.
The shop is quite small and gave the immediate impression of being rather dull and dated despite a Costa Express unit and lottery play station being visible.
There were chilled drinks aplenty and sandwiches but hot food-to-go was missing. The top-up grocery and household range was very limited. There were a small number of special offers (one on bread where stock was getting low) but, of course, no own-brand range. No off licence, no produce and no flowers.
Unfortunately, the customer toilets were out of service.
The counter area has two tills; only one was working when I visited. From the customer side, a man was using the counter in front of the second till to spread his newspaper out. I was amazed to see the man reading the paper then take it off to the back of the shop. He was part of the site team!
My transaction was completed satisfactorily but with the minimum of communication.
During the summer, forecourt convenience stores have generally enjoyed a period of good trading. Plenty of sun and high temperatures have driven sales of chilled drinks, ice cream and barbecue stuff. Now the challenge is to keep overall sales going into the autumn and winter months.
Fuel sales are under threat from the superstores and pump prices ever more competitive so a lot rests on shop sales. It all looks tough for Wellington Service Station.
Convenience stores need to know their customers and potential customers and to range and stock accordingly. Multiple owned and independent convenience store owners have and are investing massively to maintain and improve sales and margins. Staff are not forgotten and many take part in training programmes that help to boost morale and customer relations. This sort of investment seems overdue here.
If Wellington Service Station was independently owned my advice would be to investigate the benefits of joining a symbol group. The business is not independently owned but is part of a large corporation surely they have this unit in their sights and have plans for improvement?
Nothing, of course, wrong with the petrol brand. Esso is one of the leading petrol retailers in the UK.
The Snack & Shop brand is widespread and their units are known to provide quick and easy snack, drinks and basic top-up lines to grab and go.
So, what should be done? Put simply, ensure all current services and the shop offers are first class.
Get the out-of-order air compressor and customer toilet in good working order fast. Change the ATM to a free service. Give the shop interior and shelving a makeover.
Review the stock range and expand into off licence. Stock flowers. Price promote Costa coffee at least show the price on the forecourt advertising.
Surely the availability of Clubcard points on all purchases deserves more promotion than it is currently receiving? Upgrade the current small signs with large statements and build on the link with Tesco. Grab shoppers’ attention.