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Secret Shopper report: Kent

Our secret shoppers are hunting for the best in independent health store retailing in the UK and Ireland, marking out of 10 in five sections. Here, our shopper is looking for help with anxiety.

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: Kent

First impressions

As I enter this store, conveniently located in the middle of the high street, I feel that I could be in for a treat. There is a professional yet welcoming air about the place. It’s clean, relatively modern and initially seems to specialise more in supplements and medicinal products than other health food items. But let’s just wait and see, shall we…

Verdict: 9/10

Store layout

Appearances are deceiving as although the shelves and middle aisle immediately evident on entering the store stock vitamins, beauty products, body care and cleaning goods etc, this store has even more to offer.

There is a further room toward the rear of the shop with plentiful food stuffs, magazines and books for sale. Publications on homeopathy, diet advice and more fill a stand. The surrounding shelves heave with products for healthy eating, including snacks, marinades and cupboard staples such as pasta and cereals. Behind the counter, there are jars with tempting spices, seeds and similar that customers can have bagged up on request.

Cosmetics are more in abundance here than generally found in health food stores and there are many eco and vegan-friendly options to hand for a make-up bag or perhaps a gift. Handmade soaps and luxurious lotions line the shelves for anyone seeking some self-care. Different brands of essential oils are available, too, for those after further sensuous experiences.

The walls display an array of awards and qualifications earned by the owners and certificates from various institutions are evident. These people must know their stuff and I look forward to obtaining their advice.

A myriad of community notices and pamphlets are to hand for the browsing customer and are stacked neatly by the doorway. My interest in piqued - local businesses offering Reiki, massage, chakra cleansing and other therapies look innovative and intriguing.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Personal Attention

The shop assistant sings out to me asking if she can be of any help. There has been a steady flow of patrons but right now the store is empty so I take this opportunity to seek her guidance.

I explain I suffer from anxiety and she is sympathetic, asking about my ability to sleep, what my diet is like, etc. “Many ailments can be cured just by eating the right food,” she advises, and follows up by talking about the benefits of always seeking out organic produce and buying from sustainable, local farms.

She recommends I take a daily vitamin B complex with a co-enzyme, since I am in my mid-forties when a supplement containing a co-enzyme is likely to encourage easier absorption. While they stock supplements in all different price ranges, the assistant recommends one for either £29.60 for 60 tablets, or £16.70 for 30. She also states that Valerian could be helpful too. When I query as to whether one tablet is sufficient to make an impact, she is adamant that it will. She does mention that one of the co-owners will be in the store over the next few days, who is even more knowledgeable on the topic, should I need further help.

Verdict: 8/10

Check Out

In the pursuit of research, I choose the smaller of the jars and we head to the register to make my purchase. I feel the assistant has been thorough in her assessment and was available without ever being a pest.

Verdict: 8/10

Overall impression

An efficient yet warm establishment where a customer should be able to obtain whatever their health food requirements are. The only thing that seemed to be lacking was a fresh food component in-store – however on investigating their website, they claim to stock this too and even make fresh peanut butter while you wait! Unfortunately this wasn’t mentioned anywhere that I could see within the store.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Total marks 42/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...