Maiden Newton is on the A356 (Crewkerne to Dorchester) road, some nine miles from Dorchester. It is a small village with a convenience store, post office and newsagents. My target was the Texaco service station with its Spar shop.
The A356 through the village is quite narrow and so demands that drivers proceed with caution, but this ensures a great view of the pole, canopy and shop. The site seems to have vehicles everywhere. There are two islands of pumps under the canopy. Both are clean, with all nozzles working, and crowned with details of the current non-food offers.
Pump prices were a few pence per litre more than supermarket prices but acceptable given the site’s location. There are no car wash facilities.
Along the front of the shop are a row of concrete bollards, a community noticeboard and a table with chairs. These look very smart and are a great idea. There are a number of poster sites promoting various Spar offers and other shop and site services. To the side of the shop was a large display of well-kept bedding plants, bags of peat, winter/barbecue fuels and a container of plastic footballs. The workshop and MOT Testing Centre are at the back of the site.
At the door to the shop is a brick planter containing colourful plants. A great way to greet customers!
The Spar-branded shop is of average size and every square metre has been fully utilised. It’s almost approaching a muddle but there is logic to the displays, which cover most of the main c-store categories.
The hot drink machine is a Nescafé & Go and the area includes a hot snack cabinet. Customers here could well be encouraged to use the table and chairs in front of the shop. The sandwich display had been well shopped, with the Spar-branded items seemingly purchased in favour of the Manor Foods of Dorchester range.
The grocery section offers a very extensive range, some of which must be very slow sellers. There is a good range of beers and wines, many in chilled displays.
Newspapers and magazines are stocked but the display of newspapers was odd the titles were upside down!
The fresh produce range and section looked attractive and was certainly an invitation to buy.
Spar-branded products were widely available as were a selection of Spar ’Real Deal’ offers.
Customer services include the Health Lottery, PayPoint, a pay-to-use Link ATM but no customer toilet facility.
The Andrews family the owners of the site have developed a broad-based enterprise ranging from car sales and workshop, to fuel and shop sales. In their partnerships, major players Texaco and Spar have been chosen.
For retailers to achieve sustainable growth they must adapt. Large multiple retailers are moving away from superstores and investing in the small store sector. Competition for fuel and shop sales will become even more competitive.
Given the complexity of running a business like the Maiden Newton Service Station, it must be difficult for the owners to take time out to analyse its strengths and weaknesses and to identify opportunities.
Spar is a major symbol group and is constantly doing a lot of this thinking on behalf of its wholesale members and retailers. Spar retailers should take full advantage of the retail development services offered by their wholesalers.
Such a review of their business may include some of the following recommendations:
An analysis of slow sellers (particularly grocery lines).
A sale to get shot of them and free up space for lines with a greater sales and profit potential.
Invest in a further table and chairs even a parasol (perhaps Spar branded?). This will help to make sitting outside more of a community event.
Introduce a range of local products.
The introduction of a newspaper display unit for use at the shop front.
Change the ATM to ’free of charges’.
Introduce a customer toilet.
Circulate Spar promotion leaflets to local households.
Support a local community charity.
Encourage Spar to consider a national Spar shopper loyalty card.