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Secret Shopper report: Kent

Better Retailing Magazine’s secret shoppers are out and about looking for the best in independent health store retailing, marking out of 10 in five sections.

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
Cold remedy for children

First impressions

I am enveloped in a cheerful atmosphere from the moment I set foot over the threshold of this store. The décor is bright, colourful, and attracts lots of children. Bunting strung across the ceiling lends a festive feel. The pinewood surfaces are clean and well stocked with an array of vibrantly packaged goods. The place is busy without being hectic and there is a happy hum about the place. The store owner, neatly attired in uniform, allows me some time to browse, then gives me a friendly greeting and asks how she can be of help.

Verdict: 8/10

Store layout

Unlike some health food establishments, this is a shop for packaged ambient products – there is no deli counter, cold or frozen items or refill stations. The stock is well set out in a spacious, modern environment. Shelves sit around the perimeter, with other stands containing snacks, jarred goods etc. erected throughout the space. Information on specials and promotions is evident without ever bombarding the customer.

Verdict: 7/10

Personal Attention

After doing a loop or two of the store, I wait for the assistant to finish with other customers and approach the counter with my query. I explain I have two children, aged 8 and 3, and am looking for alternative cold remedies or cold prevention options, such as Echinacea, that might be suitable for them to take. The shop assistant apologises, saying she isn’t really aware of much that would be appropriate, as she is not usually on duty here and is only covering for another staff member. She suggests that I come back another time, which unfortunately isn’t really convenient. She does make the effort to peruse the stock, and eventually recommends an immune booster, retailing at £9.99. This is the only product of its kind that they have available, and I would prefer to have more options in order to make a more informed decision. The assistant then suggests a general multivitamin, but after reading the label, we realise it wouldn’t be suitable for my youngest child. We then find a multivitamin she would be able to take, but I have lost a little faith at this point and decide against making a purchase.

Verdict: 4/10

Check Out

As I am only given limited options mentioned above, and I feel that the immune booster at £9.99 could be on the expensive side, I leave the store empty handed. What has dissuaded me has not affected others though and plenty of customers come and go throughout my visit, seeming satisfied with their purchases and the service.

Verdict: 3.5/10

Overall impression

This place is a veritable vegan candy store! Many of the shelves are filled with glorious treats that bring to mind Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – albeit on a much healthier scale. Stands teem with dried berries and fruits that look perfect for snacking or school lunchboxes. There are gluten-free, sugar-free, organically produced sweets galore, the colour and magnitude overwhelming. In a section dedicated to baking, xylitol and similar products are available for creating sweet yet healthy concoctions at home. An array of crisps – all baked and gluten-free – burst from stands in lentil, rice and various vegetable varieties. The store would be a must for light, hassle-free entertaining options, with organic white, red and rosé wines also lining the shelves.

While there was quantity in the supplement section, the variety of options, brand and otherwise, is lacking. The knowledge isn’t there when it came to staff advising a customer either, unfortunately. It was a shame since the overall vibe of this store is welcoming with the staff being very pleasant and happy to help where they can. Should the store choose to perhaps pay more attention to educating staff, and then widen the amount of brands stocked, it would likely boost interest and sales.

Verdict: 7/10

Total marks: 29.5/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...