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Secret Shopper Report: Kent

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Our secret shoppers are sniffing out the best in independent health food retailing in the UK and Ireland, marking out of 10 in five sections. Here, our shopper has trouble sleeping and looks for a remedy.

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

A forest green shop front welcomes me into a business that could be described as small but perfectly formed. On entering, I notice that the window displays seem to have been split into two sections, the left showcasing more medicinal goods – a range of vitamins, supplements and remedies – the right exhibiting the foodstuffs, including snacks and wine, and small items of clothing.

The space isn’t big, but they have succeeded in making this a positive feature. White distressed floorboards with the counter to my left, fridges to my right and ahead are a series of shelves stacked with goods I look forward to knowing more about. The place hums with other customers, but I’m still attended to immediately by a warm and friendly shop assistant.

Verdict: 8/10

Store Layout

The shelves are stocked adequately and are full without heaving. Food seems a priority here. There is a wide range of snack foods on offer, everything from fruit bars, to healthy biscuits, to vegetable crisps and organic wine which all look like great options for anyone looking for some guilt-free indulgence or healthier treats for lunchboxes. Grain replenishing funnels stand high behind the counter, as do nuts and gluten-free pastas in other parts of the store. The fridge/freezers teem with options for times when you seek nourishment. Then there are exotic pastes and marinades just waiting to be selected by the cooks among us.

Unfortunately, the range of vitamins, minerals and supplements on offer isn’t quite as large. I explain that I am looking for something to help with insomnia, and Valerian, which the product the assistant mentions, doesn’t seem to be in stock. There are further options but only a couple, and I did hope to have more of a choice.

A notice on the front door mentions that they serve fresh salads and wraps for lunch, which I don’t see any evidence of either.

Other inviting items on the shelves however include eco under-garments, gloves and things for baby, earth-friendly household necessities and some luxurious looking beauty products. Promotions and specials are evident, but are more prominent within the shop window.

Verdict: 7/10

Personal Attention

I explain to the assistant that I am having problems sleeping and soon discover that the knowledge of the staff is one of the plus points of this store. Her manner is warm and she is concerned and well-informed without being overbearing. She scours the shelves for helpful antidotes, recommending Kalms and also Megamax, a magnesium and vitamin B-rich powder. She mentions that she runs a nutrition clinic and advises me further in terms of my eating and other habits. Drinking almond or other nut milks just before bed can be beneficial for insomnia along with eating oats and bananas, whereas consuming adequate protein throughout the day can ward off hunger and ensure a night’s sleep. At her suggestion, I decide to buy the Megamax powder along with a nut milk.

Verdict: 9/10

Check Out

The process here is efficient and professional without being hurried. I feel at £30, the Megamax is on the expensive side; however the shop assistant is so thorough in describing its merits that she gives me faith that it will be the answer to my sleeplessness. She goes on to advise me of upcoming talks the store will be holding on nutrition and asks if I’d like to subscribe to their newsletter via email or receive alerts about this information.

Verdict: 9/10

Overall Impression

Should they boost their range of vitamins and supplements, this small establishment has the potential to become a one-stop shop. Groceries, household necessities, pampering products and even gifts could all be purchased here and abolish the need to patronise supermarkets. A better rested me is likely to visit again in the future!

Verdict: 8/10

Total Marks 41/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...