LOCATION: My target is a family owned business, in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District, on the A623 at the village of Calver.
White’s Calver is a diverse business. Since August last year it has included a farm shop, Spar store and a café branded Palmers, but my focus was the BP/Spar on the opposite side of the main road.
FORECOURT: The forecourt is easily identified. It has a large pole and extensive canopy both branded BP. The three islands of pumps are placed diagonally to the entrance, which makes for an easy approach. Some nozzles were marked ’out of use’ but the pumps were clean and fuel-price competitive.
The start of each pump island is used to promote Costa Express, White’s Calver cleaning and full laundry service and the lottery. There’s also a blackboard sign at the shop entrance for Fresh Sandwiches made to order.
Forecourt services include a bin of solid and barbecue fuels, a newspaper dispenser, an airline and a mini power vac.
SHOP: The shop appears long and somewhat narrow. Lively music was playing maybe a touch too loud. Right by the entrance is an ATM that charges for withdrawals, the Costa Express hot drinks counter and a bake-off hot snacks unit.
At the far end of the shop by the tills, another blackboard gave the current bespoke sandwich menu. Being quite early in the morning, the menu had a breakfast theme.
Local products were represented by a range of bread and cakes. There was no produce apart from grab bags of Spar grapes and apples at the till.
Health and beauty and over-the-counter medicines are displayed on a shelf opposite the tills rather than behind them.
In many respects this is a standard forecourt convenience store with a good range of soft drinks, confectionery and snacks as well as everyday top-up lines such as bread and milk. There is a tight range of grocery products. It also covers hot coffee and food-to-go.
The forecourt shop does not have any customer toilet facilities but I was directed over the road to their Palmers Café. Unfortunately, the grey toilet door that was in urgent need of a fresh coat of paint leaves a poor impression.
The staff were superb, friendly and informative with an obvious pride in White’s Calver.
PROGNOSIS: The forecourt has been in the White family since 1957 and the total White’s Calver enterprise has a lot going for it heritage, entrepreneurial flair, partnerships with major national brands and a prime location with a relatively wealthy community. A tremendous amount of hard work and financial input must have been made to develop the farm shop-type Spar shop and Palmers Café across the road from the forecourt.
During my visit, the total enterprise was attracting a lot of custom, the shop/café car park was full and the forecourt steadily busy.
DIAGNOSIS: The current and pressing need for convenience stores is to try to meet the various shopping ’missions’ of their customers. Many will be met by the range and services offered by the farm shop Spar and Café, but what about drivers and customers with time constraints?
PRESCRIPTION: Shopping speed is still important, particularly for drivers. Thus shop layout, ranging and merchandising are key.
The White’s Calver service station is good but can it be improved?
The forecourt is fine and it remains important to ensure that fuel prices are competitive. Strong forecourt advertising could feature the retail price of coffee and promote meal deals.
After fuel, food-to-go is one of the top demands on forecourts. Today customers expect high quality, value and service. White’s Calver has a great bespoke sandwich offer but this could be extended to meal deals covering the breakfast and lunch periods.
It would be good to lose that £1.99 charge for using the ATM.And they could use Facebook and Twitter to promote the forecourt.
The aim of many forecourt operators is not just to be a location to refuel vehicles but as a modern convenience store that offers fuel as part of its services. White’s Calver service station can be just that.
The whole enterprise is very well worth a visit.