The c-store forecourt. An area of critical importance to the success of a fuel and retail location. Loosely defined: “Forecourt” as it generally applies to convenience stores refers to that area from the store entrance to the main thoroughfare.
There is a lot there. The forecourt includes lighting, signage, shrubbery, fuel dispenser islands and canopy, inspection stations, parking and drive-up areas as well as ingress and egress zones for vehicles and pedestrians. And in some cases, a car wash and related equipment. Simply stated: All things contained in the frontage and side areas.
To some, the forecourt is disconnected to the store interior. Not so. There is an old tried and true quote that states: “The outside appearance of a business must hold the promise of what lies within!” I dare say that the majority of convenience stores have a narrow focus when it comes to the forecourt.
Top management fully realizes that obtaining a perfect score on a major oil company store inspection has much more to do with having “elements” like credit card applications or pump toppers in place and basic uniforms being worn than it does with more time-consuming niceties. I hasten to add that those inspections, as they stand, are also extremely important to operators and fuel suppliers.
Granted, the things I’m referring to may come under the heading of “nitpicking” – to some. Still, they matter. Customers notice them – as well as the lack of them. Allow me to point out the more business savvy items.
Who among you hits most of the mark but misses the consumer regarding … ?
- Too much signage on store glass doors and windows: Creates consumer confusion, a visual jumble easily ignored entirely. Mandate fewer signs and decals – and change them frequently.
- Reader boards cleaned once a month and timely new messages at least once a week – an inexpensive yet extremely effective advertising medium. Don’t fail on the small things.
- Is it too much for a customer to ask to easily clean their own windshield? For far too many stores, the answer is: Dirty water with little or no cleaning agent, worn squeegee blades and empty paper towel dispensers. A recipe for sending people to the competition.
- Clean, decaled and working fuel dispensers: Who wants a filthy hand after pumping? Keep pumps clean and looking new. Bag them quickly when out of order. Imagine your customer’s after waiting for a fueling spot, only to find it out of order and not bagged!
- Cement pads and blacktop regularly pressure washed and striped. LOOK PROFESSIONAL!
- Shabby landscaping: Grass overgrown, shrubs in need of a trim, wrappers and trash strewn about. Make the effort to keep it sharp and clean.
Make these “small” things a part of your next team meeting, especially as seasons change. Stress these and other areas for improvement. Check staff progress, too, and remember another old adage: “Workers do what you inspect, not what you expect.”