Secret Shopper Report: Leamington Spa

Close-knit community shop

Since 2012, our Secret Shoppers have sought out the best (or worst) of GB’s natural health and lifestyle independents. This time our spy has travelled to Royal Leamington Spa to ask for a natural deodorant for a young girls and a natural hay fever remedy.

Store location: Leamington Spa
Issue enquired about: natural deodorant, herbal hay fever remedy.

First impressions

It wasn’t easy to spot the shop when we arrived in the area, which is away from the town’s main shopping area, despite me knowing where it was, as the Victorian building that it is in is under scaffolding at the moment. This also made it hard to see the window display and our only view of the shop front was of the peeling green paint on its window frame. Because of this the shop was not particularly inviting but the door was open which made it feel more welcoming. Once inside it feels very much like a community shop, there is lots of information on local events by the door and a friendly atmosphere, the cashier was laughing with one customer as we entered and the other shop assistant was chatting to another customer.

Verdict: 6/10

Store layout

I personally liked the layout of the shop – on first entering the store it appears to just be a small square room but as you turn a corner you find more nooks and crannies filled with further delights. I enjoyed the higgledy piggledy feel but movement around the shop may be trickier on busier days for those with pushchairs or wheelchairs. The shop was tidy and well stocked with clear areas for different products; a good variety of local organic fruit and veg, buy by the weight ‘Suma’ grains and cereals in the centre of the shop, a range of organic, gluten free, ethically sourced food for cupboards, fridges and freezers, non-animal tested toiletries and household cleaning products which were all based on natural ingredients, and CDs and photos by local artists.

There was a good balance between food, eco household and body care products and similar products were all grouped together.

I was definitely drawn to the counter by the 2 fresh cakes that were on display there. One of my children was also fascinated by the bowl of spare change on the counter which was there ‘for anyone who came in needing change’.

Verdict: 8/10

Personal attention

I was left to browse for a few minutes when I entered the shop, as both assistants were busy with other customers, which I appreciated as I wanted to look around the shop first. When I started looking in more detail at the toiletries I was approached by one of the assistants and asked if I needed any help with anything. I explained that I was looking for a deodorant that would be suitable for my 10 year old daughter and asked if he could recommend one to me as I could see a number on the shelf. He explained that all of those on display were free of aluminium chlorohydrate and aluminium zirconium but that he would recommend PitROK crystal natural deodorant stick as the only ingredient was ammonium alum, a natural mineral salt and the product was fragrance free so should be gentle enough for my daughter. I was pleased with this recommendation, especially as there similar products that were twice the price on the shelf. He also offered to find out more about PitROK’s suitability for children or if there were any other products that would be more appropriate for children.

I hadn’t seen any herbal remedies during my browse of the store so I asked if they stocked any. The assistant explained that they didn’t and suggested I try another shop, Elixir (a natural health and living store in town) which he gave me directions to. As I was leaving I did spot a shelf of herbal remedies behind the cashier so I was surprised that he hadn’t mentioned these to me.

Verdict: 8/10

Check out

The lady on checkout was very smiley and chatted to my children as she put our purchases through the till. I had a momentary panic that they didn’t accept cards as they were a small store but she quickly reassured me that they did. I wasn’t offered any further help or additional items at the till, even though I could easily have been persuaded to buy some cake which I had loudly declared as looking delicious. We weren’t offered any further information either but I did pick up some leaflets on their veg boxes and local events on my way out of the shop. It was good not to be sold to but they did miss a cake sale opportunity!

Verdict: 7/10

Overall impression

The store only had 2 other customers in it when we entered and they all seemed to know each other so it felt like a close knit community shop. I would definitely visit again as they had lots of vegan food products I would like to try and I was interested in their boxed veg scheme. I would recommend this store to friends and family.

Verdict: 8/10

Total marks: 37/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...

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