GENERAL APPEARANCE: Just south of Bridport, on the B3157, is a Morrisons. But my stealth check target was the supermarket’s petrol station and shop.

FORECOURT: The petrol station and its shop are right by the entrance to the superstore.

The large forecourt looked functional and the approach to the four islands of pumps was good. Protected overhead by a Morrisons branded canopy, the area was clean and each island promoted non-food offers. Fuel prices were competitive and the pumps were in constant use both by drivers using the petrol station services only and those using the supermarket. Pay-at-pump services were available.

Posters drew attention to the Morrisons Fuel Saver cards with the strapline: ’Never pay full price for fuel again’. Morrisons is part of the FuelGenie business-user scheme.

To the rear of the shop is a car wash and, to one side air, water and vacuum and the other Calor gas.

Papers, winter fuels and screen wash are displayed outside as are units containing lubricants, car sponges and fuel cans.

Although on the forecourt site there are no dedicated parking areas, there is ample parking space. Opening hours for the petrol station are 6am to 11pm on weekdays and 8am to 9pm on Sundays.

SHOP: The fascia, like the canopy, is just plain white with a large ’M’ in a yellow circle followed by the name Morrisons in green. It also includes the slogan ’Miles better value’. In contrast, the shop has bright décor with coloured panels on the walls above the shelving and chiller cabinets.

The shop is medium-sized with the till area at the end furthest from the entrance.

By the entrance is a ’Café Morrisons’ hot drinks’ machine and some hot pastries that I assume were ’baked off’ in the main supermarket. The stock range focuses on essential grocery products and other main impulse and refreshment categories. There was a good display of sandwiches and soft drinks. There was no fresh produce as part of the snack/refreshment offerings.

A number of seasonal offers such as torches and winter mitts were displayed around the shop. There are no customer toilet facilities.

Two members of staff were cheerfully busy on the tills.

PROGNOSIS: Morrisons is the fourth largest of the UK’s main supermarket groups.

Unlike some of its supermarket competitors, the company was late in recognising the benefits of the convenience store sector. However, now it aims to open 70 c-stores by the end of this year.

DIAGNOSIS: When supermarkets first started to sell fuels many just provided kiosks for payments and only a very limited range of ’convenience’ products was offered. But then the supermarkets recognised the potential of convenient stores on forecourts and now they are purpose-built units taking a larger and larger share of the market. Superstore fuel prices are competitive and many of their standalone c-store forecourts sites are at the cutting edge of the market. But what about Morrisons?

Well, its M Local developments should result in a growing share of the c-store sector. But will its service station shops also benefit?

PRESCRIPTION: The Morrisons Bridport petrol station shop has longer opening hours than the supermarket (weekdays 6am to 11pm versus 8am to 9pm) and there is an even greater difference on Sundays (10am to 4pm versus 8am to 9pm).

Against the background that c-store footfall is on the increase; research shows consumers are not overly impressed with shopping at some forecourt shops; and fuel sales are declining; Morrisons needs to make its petrol station shop more appealing. It could:

Install a free-to-use ATM and even an off-licence section.

Extend the Fuel Saver schemes to include car wash and hot drinks.

Increase the fresh offerings by using stock from the supermarket.

Stock a range of £1 offers.

Amend the stock range particularly ready meals and locally produced products during the holiday season.

Develop links with holiday attractions and local caravan sites.

Overall, work on the basis that consumers now expect a modern convenience store.