GENERAL APPEARANCE: For years the A3 at Hindhead was notorious for its traffic jams. Since last summer’s opening of the Hindhead Tunnel all that has changed, but I wondered what effect the loss of traffic was having on the two service stations located on the ’old’ A3, near the crossroads with the A287. On investigation I find that one had closed and the other the Total/Bonjour Service Station seems to be thriving. This is about a quarter of a mile south of the new Hindhead village mini-roundabout.
FORECOURT: A distinctive Total pole signs the 24-hour site. It’s an average-sized site with the entrance and exit clearly marked. There are just three large islands of pumps under a branded canopy. There were queues for all the pumps. This was mid-morning and the customers were a mix of cars and small business vans. Fuel prices were competitive at 133.9 ppl and 140.9ppl. The pumps were clean, all working and topped by promotion cards. Forecourt services include a jet wash and car wash supported by a ’3 for £10 plus free coffee offer’, air, water and vaccum.
Parking was limited to about four designated spaces clearly not enough for the shop-only customers parked haphazardly around the site.
At the front of the shop is an ATM, winter fuel, screen wash, newspapers and flowers.
Strategically-placed promotion banners and A-frames are used to advertise various offers.
SHOP: The shop is of a standard size, with a typical Bonjour layout. To the right of the entrance is the food-to-go area and the Piacetto Espresso Coffee hot drinks machine and counter. There were plenty of sandwiches (Urban Eat range), savoury pastries, wraps and sweet buns. The one disappointment was the free-standing ’Change 4 Life’ unit all empty apart from a few apples on the bottom shelf.
A tight-but-good range of greeting cards, magazines and car care products were available. A long run of refrigerated units is situated along the rear wall and offers a range of best-selling soft drinks, beers and wines.
In the centre of the floor space are two units carrying a restricted range of top-up packaged groceries.
The customer toilets with disabled provision were clean and the check rota up to date, but the whole area needed a deep clean.
There seemed to be a fair number of offers in-store but nothing to really to grab the shopper’s attention. Obvious ranges missing are fresh produce and local products.
To the far left of the store are the tills with the usual tobacco products and OTC medicines. The Health Lottery is there too.
The two members of staff in the shop were coping with the constant line of customers but had no time to interact or up-sell to them.
PROGNOSIS: Last June Rontec Investment acquired the Total retail and fuel distribution assets in the UK. This was quickly followed by the news that Shell was to purchase some 250 former Total sites from Rontec. And then that DCC Energy was to buy the fuel distribution and Total dealer business.
It can be assumed that Rontec will convert the former Total sites it now owns to the Snax 24 format.
I have no idea what the future is for the Total/Bonjour site at Hindhead, but whoever ends up owning it will certainly have a ’cash cow’ on their hands.
DIAGNOSIS: With the opening of the A3 tunnel the future for this site could have been dire but the site is thriving. Judging by the number of vehicles refuelling, fuel volume must be good and by the house building going on next to the site the prospect of increasing shop traffic is also good.
PRESCRIPTION: How the owners must wish for more space to be able to invest in additional pumps but this does not seem possible given the current configuration of the site. So it is essential that everything is managed to ensure the minimum of frustration to drivers waiting to refuel or park.
This business ticks lots of boxes but the strict adherence to a formula seems to limit the shop’s potential. The spare space in the shop could be used for more fresh food (artisan bread, fruit and vegetables) and local products.
And with purse strings tight and likely to remain so for some time, a dedicated unit of special bargains (£1 offers) may work well.