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Secret Shopper Report: East Midlands

All that makes a health store so endearing!

The latest in our Secret Shopper search for the best in independent health store retailing across the UK and Ireland.

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: East Midlands
An 80-year-old mother suffering from mosquito bites, and immune/general wellbeing

First Impressions

This store is in a quaint street just off the main street. The frontage is flat, due to the proximity of the road, so quite hard to spot, but once you see the windows, which are beautifully and thoughtfully dressed, the shop endears you to it.

Spot-lighting inside is clearly visible through the windows, giving the shop a warm glow that invites you inside, where your senses are enlivened by that old-fashioned health shop smell – that mixture of wholefoods and natural remedies that lets you know that you’ve arrived in a truly independent health shop. Once inside, well defined small areas take you on a journey to different parts of the shop, under old wooden beams, with products stocked on wooden dressers in an orderly, but non-clinical way that makes you want to pick products up and learn about them.

Whether it’s crystals, natural bodycare, wholefoods or supplements, it’s clear that it’s all here, but cleverly, the shop layout takes you on holistic journey into each area and, before you know it, you’ve picked up something in each.

Verdict: 7/10

Store Layout

The store is very well stocked in all key categories: wholefoods, natural remedies, bodycare, eco household and supplements. The slant appears to be more towards bodycare and remedies to support holistic therapies, and there are crystals in the store, displayed beautifully on an old wooden dresser. Supplements are available, but are integrated tastefully among other products, which makes a refreshing change and positions them as part of an integrated health approach.

The shop is small, but big enough for this small market town. There’s a steady stream of customers asking for health advice, but the allocation of three specific shop areas means that customers are well dispersed. These well-defined areas each create their own smell: the earthy scent of wholefoods and the pampering aroma of natural and organic bodycare.

Creation of that intimate, old school independent health shop with wooden floors and beams is teamed with impeccable cleanliness, so the shop has a cosy feel, yet clearly maintains clean, practitioner standards.

If advice or information is needed, the counter, which is central to the shop, is welcoming and not over-crowded, and there’s enough room for plenty to be placed on it, which again demonstrates thoughtfulness towards the customers.

Verdict: 9/10

Personal Attention

On arrival in the shop, the counter isn’t attended, and the owner is in a different section. So it initially feels strange, and incredibly trusting – which you might expect in a small market town. After about five minutes, which gives me the chance to look at the amazing bodycare products at the front of the shop, I am warmly greeted with an apology, but then left again to browse. There is clearly confidence in the ability of the shop to do its job in attracting people to buy, so it is refreshing to be left in peace.

The owner is casually dressed, but in line with the feel of the shop. When asking for help with my mother’s mosquito bites at the counter, the response is thoughtful, and very calmly approached with care and consideration. Solutions offered include simply using ice-cubes, alongside brewer’s yeast and lavender essential oil. Good link sales, and something that didn’t have to be bought. This gives the impression of genuine care for the problem and not the sale, per se. Information is given in an authoritative but friendly and helpful way, as are solutions to other customers’ problems. One customer who wants a lot of attention is dealt with respectfully and clearly.

Verdict: 8/10

Check Out

Check out Is friendly and personal, and solutions offered are logical and appropriate. Products bought are given in an old paper bag, which is thoughtfully folded over and personally given over the counter. No additional therapies, newsletters or promotions are offered, or details of other events. However, local customers seem aware of the personal service and are clearly in the know about what is on offer. It is clearly a community hub of holistic care and encourages continued custom.

Verdict: 8/10

Overall Impression

This is a fine example of all that’s endearing about independent health stores: warm and inviting, authoritative advice and incredibly well stocked for a truly holistic healthcare approach. Customers clearly love it, and it’s easy to see why. The shop is quaint, clean, rustic and embracing, with all the smells and sights that independent health shops should offer.

Verdict: 8/10

Total Marks: 40/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...