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Secret Shopper Report: Devon

Frontage facelift needed!

Here’s looking at you! Our Secret Shoppers are hunting up and down the land, looking for the best UK health food stores. They give marks out of 10 in five categories, here inspecting a small but lively store in Devon.

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: Devon
Help for hay fever

First Impressions

My initial impression of this store is that it could do with a lick of paint and a little updating. The paint is peeling from the door and window frame, while the shop sign looks rather old fashioned. The window display is chock-a-block with products, ranging from supplements to natural beauty items and it is difficult to see into the store itself due to the packed display. The door is plastered with posters advertising local therapists and workshops.

Verdict: 5/10

Store Layout

It’s fairly small inside but neat and well ordered. The shelves are full of products and it is also well lit and easy to navigate around. There are a few customers inside, browsing the goods. The left-hand wall of the store is filled with row upon row of glass jars, containing herbs, spices and various whole foods. It has the look of an apothecary which is quite appealing. An island in the middle of the store is packed with various grocery items, ranging from healthy cooking oils and sauces to teas, coffees and other drinks. There is also a selection of organic sweets and chocolates. As I make my way around the island I take in the vast selection of free-from foods, organic produce and chilled food items spread out on the right-hand wall of the store. The range of whole foods is certainly impressive. The vitamins, minerals and supplements are located on the far wall of the store, along with sports nutrition, natural beauty products and eco-friendly cleaning items. The till is located towards the back of the shop too, and an assistant is standing behind it. She greets me with a smile and I am made to feel welcome. I think to myself that the interior of the store is certainly an improvement on the exterior.

Verdict: 7/10

Personal Attention

After browsing around the store, I stand in front of the supplements trying to find some suitable hay fever remedies. After a minute or so, the assistant asks me if I need any help. I explain that I suffer with hay fever and would like to source some natural remedies in time for the summer. The assistant asks me how long I have been experiencing hay fever and whether I already take any medication for it. I explain that it has become a problem in recent years and that I have tried anti-histamines in the past, but would like to try a natural approach now. The assistant shows me A.Vogel Pollinosan tablets and explains that these are a homeopathic remedy which will not cause drowsiness. She also shows me some HayMax pollen barrier balm and explains how this should be applied to the nostrils to prevent pollen from entering the nose. I mention that my eyes can get quite itchy during hay fever season and I am shown some Similasan eye drops which are another homeopathic remedy. Overall I am impressed with her friendly and helpful demeanour and I feel that I have received a personal service.

Verdict: 7/10

Check Out

I thank the assistant for her help and decide to buy the HayMax balm and Pollinosan tablets. I thank her for a suggestion about trying local honey and assure her that I will try this when I return home (I am visiting the store while on holiday). She asks me if I have everything I need from the store and I reply that yes I do. It’s a pleasant transaction and I do not feel as though I have been pressured to buy anything.

Verdict: 8/10

Overall Impression

My first impressions of the store were not so good, but I was pleasantly surprised once I stepped through the door. The member of staff who served me was pleasant, professional and very helpful, leaving me with the feeling that I had received good customer service. The range of products in the store was impressive and shopping there was an enjoyable experience. I think the store would certainly benefit from an exterior makeover as its tired appearance belies the fact that it is a lovely store with good products and approachable, knowledgeable staff. If I return to the area again I will certainly go back to this shop.

Verdict: 8/10

Total Marks: 35/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...