My target is the Forecourt Trader 2010 rural category winner, a Murco/Costcutter Express situated at the Bar End area of Winchester. The enterprise is just off the M3 at junction 10 and close to the St Catherine’s and Barfield Park & Ride sites.
There are three approaches to the site and, from all three, the Murco-branded pole is visible and shows the competitive price of the fuel and the fact that there is a Costcutter shop.
The site is quite tight in size but it is immediately clear that the limited space has been used efficiently.
Access to the four islands of pumps is good. All the pumps appear to be clean and in good working order, each topped by a non-food promotion. Between two of the islands is a large display of BBQ fuels all just waiting for some summer sunshine!
At one end of the site is the pay-for airline, water (out of order) and vacuum services at the other end the shop. The car wash, Calor Gas cage and then the jet wash are at the rear of the site.
At the road side of the shop is a free-to-use ATM and newspapers. A a display container of plastic footballs and winter fuels are to the front of the shop.
Along the front of the site, a number of posters promote various Costcutter promotions.
The Costcutter Express is as tight on space as the forecourt but once again every square metre of space has been utilised. However, I believe you could still shop this store quickly as each product category was visible and accessible.
Fuel-only customers (no pay-at-pump service available) have fast access to the till area but could be delayed by shop customers waiting to pay. (Just one till was operating during my visit).
A good range of sandwiches, Bake & Bite hot savouries, hot drinks, snacks, soft drinks and confectionery is available. The shop stocks a tight range of ’top-up’ groceries and ready meals, including a number of Heritage-branded products.
A range of beer and wine is on offer and a good selection is chilled. At the time of my visit, produce included just four items: apples, potatoes, onions and pre-packed salad.
Top marks the customer toilet was immaculate, and staff helpful and friendly.
Costcutter is without doubt one of the major symbol groups in the UK. Murco Petroleum, with over 400 outlets, is a significant fuel brand. The company made an alliance with Costcutter Supermarkets in 1996. Today, Costcutter is operating on the majority of the company-owned sites. But it is rumoured that Morrisons is interested in acquiring Costcutter’s company-owned stores.
Recognising that one format does not fit all, the Costcutter Supermarkets Group offers four fascia options: Costcutter, Kwiksave, myCostcutter and Rhythm & Booze each tailored to a retailer’s business requirements. Costcutter Express is a format ideal for forecourts.
The shop location means that it must have a mass of passing trade and a lesser amount of regular community customers. A ’community’ programme in addition to the Costcutter promotions may help to exploit the shop’s regular customer base and potential customers further.
Add a ’pay-at-pump’ facility. Passing drivers will be attracted by the forecourt’s convenient location and competitive fuel prices.
The availability of a free-to-use ATM is positive and a ’free-to-use ATM’ flash should be added to the pole information.
On the forecourt, weekly meal deals and coffee loyalty programmes are proven ways of driving additional and developing regular business. These should be attractive to passing drivers and people walking by.
I suspect there could be quite a few people who walk past the site as there is a large private car park used by staff of the many businesses in Winchester, and a large playing field creating weekend customer potential.
The Winchester Farmers Market is one of the largest in the country and there must be a number of local suppliers that would be willing to promote their products through this Costcutter Express.
Bread, milk and sandwiches would be a good start.