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Secret Shopper Report: South Coast

Maximising a tiny space

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: South Coast
A cousin who may be suffering from candida

First Impressions

I’m on holiday and browsing the shopping street of a small town within earshot of the gentle slap of rigging in the masts of motley yachts in the marina. Nestling between estate agents offering inflated prices and upmarket gift stores is the tiniest of health food shops. Blink and you miss it – my otherwise unobservant husband points out that this may be the place to find out about my cousin’s issue. The minuscule frontage barely has room to say much more than this is the place to resolve your nutrition issues through healthy food and natural therapies. Lack of fanfare means a reduced mark, but yachties needing to restore energy levels and find easy-to-prepare sailors’ fare will love love this locker-room!

Verdict: 5/10

Store Layout

Fortunately, there are no other customers in the store so I breathe in and browse. There’s barely room for the centre display but well thought out shelving and positioning makes the most of the space. Own label pre-packs of flours, nuts and pulses lead on to a chilled section, then toiletries and bodycare including refills for most things especially shampoo and conditioner (crucial for the yachties), and a small section for supplements next to the sales counter. Here I spot some leading names including Vogel, Bio-Kult and Optibac, and make a mental note that one of these might offer resolution to the problem at hand. There’s an appealing display announcing a whole raft of therapies, of which more below. Here I meet an assistant who politely asks if she can help, so I hesitantly explain what I’m looking for.

Verdict: 6/10

Personal Attention

The assistant is chatty and warm, but I suspect that she would rather the owner explained what’s on offer. Sure enough, she is hailed and emerges from what I assume if the therapy consulting area. She explains that the main business is nutritional consultation and shows me an array of factsheets and an infographic-style explanation of a dozen tests (which may help my cousin) and various therapy disciplines. Charges range from £12 to £60. As for my cousin’s candida problem, would she like to call in to see how this therapist can help? Unfortunately not, as she lives way up north! But I am recommended a course of probiotics to go with a change of diet, the latter requiring proper consultation, the former probably Bio-Kult’s Candea which unfortunately is not in stock. The entire conversation takes place with a counter between us, understandable because there isn’t room for the four of us to converse in the aisle!

Verdict: 6/10

Check Out

I leave empty handed but I know that had I bought the desired Candea, this would have been cheerfully and efficiently completed. I am handed a leaflet which I later see has a simple explanation of the owner’s passion for nutrition and how her business can assist customers towards a happy and healthy sense of wellbeing. Including candida together with weight issues, IBS and chronic fatigue.

Verdict: 5/10

Overall Impression

I have a spring in my step as I return to the street. I love a warm and inviting atmosphere, however tiny, and the potential of authoritative advice and a holistic healthcare approach. If only it was a little larger!

Verdict: 7/10

Total Marks 29/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...