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Secret Shopper Report: Colchester

A dizzying array of products

Launched in 2012, our Secret Shoppers are seeking out the best (or worst) of GB’s natural health and lifestyle independents. This time our spy has travelled to Colchester seeking help for immune support.

Store location: Colchester
Issue enquired about: Help for immune support

First impressions

From the outside the store looks a little tired and in need of a bit of TLC. The sign looks a bit outdated and could do with a lick of paint. The windows are full of posters advertising various seasonal products (it is winter so it’s mostly cold and flu remedies) and there is a billboard outside promoting natural remedies for sleep. The shop looks quite small and dark inside.

Verdict: 5/10

Store layout

As I walk in I realise that the store is indeed very small and dark – and, I hate to say it, but a bit claustrophobic. There are five other customers in there and we shuffle past one another apologetically to try and get round the store. The shelves are packed from floor to ceiling with products – literally every inch of space is filled – but in a fairly neat way. The whole of the left hand side is devoted to wholefoods and there is a dizzying array of products, with free from diets catered for very well. There are chiller cabinets along the back wall, filled with items like fresh tofu, pâté, organic pies and dairy substitutes. The whole of the right hand wall is devoted to vitamins, minerals and supplements from a wide variety of brands. The central section of the store is filled with natural and organic beauty products and eco-friendly cleaning products. The counter is tucked in the corner in front of the shelves of supplements. There are health magazines and flyers all around the counter.

Verdict: 6/10

Personal attention

There is one assistant working in the shop and she is busy helping another customer. She is very much in demand as other customers are also waiting for help so I have to wait a while until she is free. I don’t begrudge her the fact that she didn’t acknowledge me when I walked in as she is obviously rushed off her feet.

I explain that I have been suffering with lots of colds and sore throats recently and I am looking for a natural way to boost my immunity. She suggests that I try Echinacea and brings out a bottle of Echinaforce Echinacea drops by A.Vogel. She also suggests zinc and vitamin C to help support my immunity and indicates a range of products by brands like Solgar and Viridian. She also suggests Unbeelievable’s Bee Prepared Immune Support which contains a range of natural immune boosters like bee propolis and black elderberry.

She also asks whether I eat a balanced diet and if I am getting enough sleep. I confess that my diet could do with some improvement so she recommends that I try a multivitamin to make sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need. I am impressed by the wide variety of suggestions and don’t feel pressured into buying anything.

Verdict: 7/10

Check out

I decide to buy a multivitamin by Solgar and the A. Vogel echinacea drops. The assistant rings up my purchases efficiently and doesn’t try to sell me anything further. There isn’t much in the way of chitchat but she is polite and friendly and I feel as though I have had good customer service.

Verdict: 7/10

Overall impression

The assistant was polite and helpful and gave me a wide range of products to choose from. She seemed to know the right things to recommend for my problem. Unfortunately the store was so tiny and cramped that I didn’t really enjoy the experience of shopping there especially when it was busy with other customers. There are a lot of products on display at this store – the choice was almost overwhelming – but I think I would only choose to go there again if I knew it would be quiet.

Verdict: 6/10

Total marks: 31/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...

Read about the winning store in the 2014 Secret Shopper Awards here...