GENERAL APPEARANCE: The Total/Bonjour is the only service station directly on the busy east-bound A27 between Southampton and Chichester. It shares a site with a Little Chef and Travelodge.
It is a popular site with drivers particularly HGV drivers as its price for fuel is generally the same as most supermarkets.
This visit was the week before Easter just at the end of the panic buying by drivers as a result of the threatened tanker drivers’ dispute.
Would the site have fuel? Has it increased its prices?
FORECOURT: The Total-branded pole is very visible and showed fuel prices (140.9ppl and 146.9ppl) that were still on a par with local supermarkets.
It is a large site with the Little Chef (to let) and Travelodge to the left, and the forecourt and shop to the right. A large area for HGV vehicles and two designated HGV diesel filling lines are at the rear of the site. Five islands of pumps are located under a large Total-branded canopy. All the nozzles appeared to be working apart from the Excellium ones. Clearly the priority was being given to ’standard’ fuels rather than the more expensive high-performance fuels. The pumps were clean and topped by promotion cards.
There was a constant flow of drivers refuelling so, yes, it had fuel and no, it had not profiteered and increased the price.
Forecourt services included the usual air, water and vacuum but no car or jet wash.
There are a significant number of designated parking places.
To the front of the shop was a large, distinctive-looking ATM, a display of papers and a somewhat shabby looking secure unit containing winter fuels.
SHOP: The entrance to the Bonjour-branded shop gives a feeling of space. To the left is the foodservice section, in the centre a display of pastries, and to the left the till area.
A large Piacetto Espresso machine and counter was in constant use. There was one small, tall table but, strangely only one stool! Along the back wall a long run of refrigerated cabinets contained wines and beers, sandwiches (Urban Eat), milk and a large range of soft drinks.
A ’Change 4 Life’ unit contained bananas and two types of apple.
Groceries are restricted to a tight range of essential top-up lines. Most of the aisle ends displayed promoted lines including a number of £1 offers.
The customer toilet was in high demand. Despite the fact that the inspection rota was up-to-date, a thorough clean was required.
A member of staff on the till was very efficient and keenly offered an option of £1 items.
PROGNOSIS: Following the sale of the Total retail assets, the future and branding of this forecourt and shop is unknown. Its rural location on the A27 means that it is reliant upon drivers. The shared location with the Little Chef and Travelodge and the use by HGV drivers must help to generate trade. But clearly a priority must be to continue to attract customers via a competitive retail price for fuel.
DIAGNOSIS: A change to the brand of fuel sold and the shop fascia will be both a risk and an opportunity. A risk, as loyal customers can be resistant to change but an opportunity to attract many more new customers.
PRESCRIPTION: Fuel pricing is important and being so reliant on transient customers, it is vital that this site keeps a competitive edge.
When the pole is rebranded/replaced, more prominence could be given to fuel pricing.
Forecourt convenience stores continue to experience an increase in the sales of coffee and other hot drinks. More could be made of the Piacetto Espresso partnership by displaying a price menu together with a loyalty scheme at the entrance to the forecourt. And improve the current café area at least provide more stools!
Provide a number of shopping baskets at the shop entrance to encourage larger purchases.
Deep clean the current toilet area. Examine the possibility of opening a separate toilet/washing facility for HGV drivers.
Sales of fresh products continue to increase. Consider the development of a limited range of produce, fresh bread and flowers.
More price-marked packs would help develop a value offer.