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Secret Shopper Report: North East

Our secret shoppers are sniffing out 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 a remedy for abdominal cramps.

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: North East
Abdominal cramps

First Impressions

The store is located in the town centre and is very easy to find. The exterior of the store is predominantly black with yellow signage and it looks very stylish. The modest exterior is coupled with a neat and tidy window display which is quite subtle both in terms of what’s showcased (herbal teas and a small selection of supplements) and the pastel colours used.

Verdict: 7/10

Store Layout

The store is surprisingly spacious even though it’s quite small in size – it’s also bright, airy and clean. As I enter the store, the counter is immediately to my right and I notice that herbs and supplements are located behind there too. To my left, I come across a very good selection of herbal teas, free-from and organic packaged food and drink, natural beauty and eco household options. In addition to offering its own range of supplements, the store also stocks leading ranges including Viridian, Nature’s Plus, Natures Aid and Higher Nature.

Verdict: 7/10

Personal Attention

As I enter the store, I’m immediately greeted by a warm and friendly member of staff. I quickly realise I’m the only customer in the store and it remains like that for my entire visit so it makes for an unusual shopping experience. The sales assistant begins by asking if I’m looking for something in particular, I let them know I’m just going to browse to begin with.

As I’m casually looking through the food and drink section, the sales assistant provides insight on what’s popular with staff from the ranges. I also receive insight on which herbal teas and natural beauty ranges are popular with customers. I mention that I’m just visiting for the day and we have a chat about the local region in general.

Once I head towards the counter to take a closer look at the supplements, I ask for advice on what natural support might be good for IBS-related abdominal cramps. He recommends two expensive supplements – digestive enzymes or a probiotic complex. I’m not keen on spending that much and mention that I already take a quality probiotic.

I mention that’s there’s only a Holland & Barrett store where I live. This now bizarrely leads to him making the assumption that the probiotic I’m taking must be one from Holland & Barrett – it’s actually from Natures Aid. As those supplements are not of interest, we go back to looking at other options from the behind the counter supplement section. It’s here that I spot the Higher Nature Citricidal Liquid and ask if that’s something he would recommend. He advises that grape seed extract can indeed be helpful for IBS. As it’s much more reasonably priced, I decide to give that a go.

Verdict: 8/10

Check Out

As I’m the only customer in the store, I’m immediately served by the chatty member of staff. He gives further advice on how to take the grape seed extract and gradually increase the dose which is helpful. I also pick up a box of Eloments vitamin tea in Egyptian mint as it’s one I haven’t seen before. He commends my choice and feels it will also help to aid my digestive troubles. The checkout experience is friendly but not particularly fast. As I want to pay contactless, the card machine is not in the shop so the sales assistant has to go upstairs to locate it. Before I leave, I ask whether they have an online shopping option – they do and I’m given a leaflet with the store’s web address on.

Verdict: 7/10

Overall Impression

I was pleasantly surprised to find there was an independent health store when I was visiting this area. The store looks stylish and offers a very good range of natural health options as well as providing herbal prescriptions. I’m happy to recommend this store and I can see myself popping by again but I would like a slightly less attentive shopping experience next time!

Verdict: 7/10

Total Marks 36/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...