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Secret Shopper report: London

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. Here, our shopper is looking for some advice on digestion.

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: Central London
Help in finding digestive enzymes

First Impressions

When I arrive at the store, my first impression is that it appears to be quite small and cramped. The shop is quite narrow, which makes the window displays seem very busy. There are various posters in the windows for natural products such as Bio-Kult and Echinaforce, along with some product displays. The shop sign over the front door looks quite old and dated but the windows and door are clean.

Verdict: 6/10

Store Layout

As I suspected, when I enter the store, I find that it is very small and cramped inside. There is a group of customers by the till which makes it difficult to get in and I can’t help but feel a little claustrophobic. The left-hand side of the store is initially dedicated to natural beauty and body care products, with plenty of natural shampoos, conditioners and bath products neatly stacked together.

As I make my way towards the back of the store it turns into the wholefoods section. In this part there is a wide range of products such as nuts, seeds, pulses, grains, flours, sauces and condiments. It is well stocked and I am impressed by the different choices available. The middle island features more natural grocery products from various types of gluten-free bread and pasta to healthy cooking oils, hot drinks, herbal teas and natural sugar alternatives.

It is obviously a popular store as there are people bustling all around me, shopping for grocery items. The right-hand wall of the store is filled from top to bottom with various vitamins, minerals and supplements. There are so many to choose from that I realise I could be browsing for a long time! This section of the store has the clean, clinical look of a pharmacy. There is an assistant behind the till, which is positioned in front of the supplements, near to the door, and there is another assistant helping him to pack for the customers.

Verdict: 6/10

Personal Attention

I spend several minutes browsing the mind-boggling array of supplements before the second assistant asks me if I need any help. I explain that I would like to buy some digestive enzymes as I have been experiencing some digestive discomfort – mainly bloating and discomfort after meals. The assistant leads me to the relevant section and shows me a range of different products for digestive health. He asks me some questions about my symptoms and what kinds of foods affect me. I explain that I have had these symptoms for a couple of years now and that they have been getting worse in recent times. The most troublesome foods for me used to be gluten and dairy but I now find myself reacting to a lot of different foods. I add that my bloating issues tend to get worse throughout the day.

The assistant suggests that I try a combination of some digestive enzymes as well as a probiotic. He recommends Digest Gold + Probiotics by Enzymedica, which is an extra strength formula and so should help with the fact that I react to a lot of foods. It is a little pricey for me though, so I ask for something a bit cheaper and he recommends Digest Gold + Active Bacteria. I go for this option because I like the combination of a digestive formula as well as probiotics in one supplement – and it is more within my budget.

Verdict: 7/10

Check Out

Check out is easy and pleasant. The assistant is very kind and friendly and we have a little chat. He asks me whether I have found all the products I need and whether I need any more help. I explain that I am happy with my choice and thank him for his assistance. I note that the area around the till is a bit cluttered with products. There are lots of natural gifts like salt lamps and candles to catch shoppers’ eyes when they are waiting to pay. I don’t feel pressured to buy any more products though and I leave with the feeling that I have been treated well.

Verdict: 7/10

Overall Impression

My initial impressions of the store were not great as it felt cramped and a bit claustrophobic. It was difficult to make my way around without constantly bumping into other shoppers. The shelves were well stocked with a great range of products though, and the store was very clean, if somewhat cluttered. The customer service was very good and I felt that the assistant took the time to listen to me and wanted to help. I would consider returning to this store, but perhaps at a less busy time!

Verdict: 6/10

Total marks: 32/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...