Over the years I have often been amazed at how many stations, convenience stores and corporate images have been compromised in their performance due to serious failings in the feasibility, design and development process. And the result? They fall short of their full investment potential which, in my opinion, is unforgivable as it could so easily be avoided with the right planning process.
Location, location, location …
As an example, I recently visited a large modern service station. At first sight it was impressive and certainly very busy; however, once I understood what was really happening it was easy to identify some basic design flaws which were causing serious operational problems within the site.
This particular location was some way from a large city, close to a major highway and with an industrial area close by. For some reason the site designers had elected to install a huge array of car service facilities on the site, most of which were standing idle. A simple understanding of how customers use facilities would tell you that they will not drive out of a major city simply to get their oil changed and are very unlikely to want a car wash in the middle of a long journey.
To make matters worse, the position within the site of some of the car service facilities was blocking both visibility and access to the fuel dispensers, leading to severe congestion which, in turn, gave rise to frustration, queue jumping and a generally poor customer experience. See the photo – the site on the surface looks busy – what is less easy to see is that the central fuel pumps can be accesses by the queuing cars due to the location of the large white ‘facilities’ area.
This site could so easily have been planned in a more logical and effective way with a better understanding of the potential of the location. The station best suited to this location would have cost significantly less money and delivered a far better return on investment.
The Devil is in the detail …
Conversely, for an excellent example of value management in action you only have to look at the latest site image being rolled out by Shell. At first glance you can instantly see it is a Shell station with all the familiar imagery. However, there is also some very clever detailing incorporated that ensures the longevity of the site signage and hence optimised investment. Look closely and you will see that the design incorporates neutral corners – in other words, the graphic images stop just before each corner (see photo).
Corner detail is always a problem as all canopies vary slightly in size and shape; trying to fit a continuous image exactly around corners requires precise on-site surveys, building in construction tolerances and even on-site cutting to ensure they fit perfectly. In other words, a nice design but an installation nightmare. And what happens when the very same corner gets damaged by a large truck and needs replacement? Will the exact sign piece be in stock? Will the repaired canopy be compromised with an obvious ill-fitting repair?
The Shell design avoids all these issues by simply not having the corner details linking together with no loss to the corporate image and customer perception. They have simplified the entire processes of design, manufacturing, procurement, installation and maintenance. Looks good. Easy to install. Easy to repair. A masterstroke. Most importantly a significant financial saving across whole network.
In contrast, this wonderful example from the Indian sub-continent shows the problems that can occur when design leads rather than common sense – I’d be interested to see the design standards required to roll this canopy out nationally!
Barry Wyeth of Wyeth Projects has 20 years’ experience in the retail petroleum market with Petrofina, Total and, most recently with Wyeth Projects Services, a specialist consultancy working in the retail petroleum sector.