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Secret Shopper Report: Cotswolds

The Mecca for organic everything!

Our Secret Shoppers are scouring the highways and byways for the best of GB’s health food and natural lifestyle independents. Here, our nosey shopper snooped around a magnificent paradise for organic food and more. As this farm shop superstore does not fit our criteria for a health food store we have given each section a coded verdict (see key below) and although likely to get a special mention at our awards presentation, it will not be eligible for the top award.

The Better Retailing Awards are run in conjunction with the Health Food institute and reward excellence in independent health store retailing. The winner is selected from the stores visited by the Better Retailing secret shoppers throughout the year.

Store location: Cotswolds
Aiming for a 100% organic lifestyle

KEY: Ooh-err! – Not so good; Oh! – Interesting; Ooh! – Lovely; Oh my! – Astonishing; OMG! – Top Notch

First impressions

Here I am with a free morning to discover this renowned food and lifestyle outlet, travelling country roads and passing more farm shops than I’ve ever seen before. None quite so impressive as the one I’m looking for, but all of them reflecting this Middle England upmarket land of plenty! My satnav takes me away from gorgeous Cotswold villages and straight into an extensive (but attractively landscaped) car park filled with 4x4s, Beemers, Audis and racy sportscars. Nestling among the trees is an immaculate low-slung complex hinting at clean, inviting quality with a capital Q.

Verdict: Oh!

Store layout

It’s spacious and delightfully designed – a very clever owner probably paid a pretty penny to a first rate retail interior designer! The store seems to gently take me by the hand and draw me past lovely displays of fruit and veg, plentiful but not stacked, pre-packed organic goodies, a long organic meat counter, wines, soups, bread, cakes, biscuits – and all before you get to the café and restaurant, not to mention the home and garden section. Even organic flowers! This is clearly a regular spot for ladies who lunch…

Verdict: Oh my!

Personal attention

There are so many beautifully turned out, branded staff, but as the shop and café are busy and organic produce speaks for itself, there is little demand for personal attention. There are no supplements whatsoever which is the main reason why specialist advice isn’t needed, and why this emporium doesn’t quite fit our criteria.

The staff are happy and smiling, but then so must be the owner as these customers have the look of wealth, not the sort to blink at prices that are certainly upwards of Waitrose. I meet a colleague, the MD of a local VMS manufacturer, for lunch and we are not rushed as we enjoy triple salads with extra avocado. Patient and attentive service. Totally delicious.

Verdict: Ooh!

Check out

I shop. Everything organic and so much choice. Check out is discreet, more hotel than supermarket. I hand over my basket containing chowder, sauce, sourdough and tempting snacks at around £20, packed in a classy bag adorned with doe-eyed cows. I am a happy shopper.

Verdict: Oh!

Overall impression

My colleague exclaims: “It’s as if John Lewis and Whole Foods got together and had a baby!” It might not be difficult for our readers to work out who and where this is, but rules are rules and we keep these excursions anonymous. It’s strongly recommended to any ambitious store owner who wants to be inspired for simple, light and airy interior design with quality fittings and finishing. For me, it is an experience worth travelling those country lanes for.

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...