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Secret Shopper report: South Wales

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 arthritic pain.

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: South Wales
Arthritis pain

First Impressions

The store is located on a city centre main road and its bright sign makes it easy to spot from afar. But the fairly cluttered window display with giant cardboard cut-outs and lots of information posters make it appear really alternative and hippie, which doesn’t correlate with the slick-looking, more high-end feel inside. Bright bunting frames the window, helping it look approachable and unpretentious, as well as signs that clearly state that it sells ‘health foods’ and ‘herbal remedies’. Green plants stand guard at the door to assure customers that nature is at the heart of this business.

Verdict: 6/10

Store Layout

On stepping inside, the store is clean, organised and well-lit with a spacious feel – considering it’s a small store. It has a far more professional vibe than you would perceive by looking at it from the outside.

Cash desks are on the left as I enter and products are neatly displayed on wooden shelves in an orderly fashion, with plenty of room to browse in the aisles. Stock is set out in clearly labelled sections making it easy to find what I’m looking for. There is a great balance of different sections, but the tea section stands out as particularly impressive – with a huge range of brands and flavours – making it a must-visit for tea-lovers.

There’s also a strong selection of free-from and vegan foods, including dried foods like pasta alternatives and breakfast cereals, and fridges and freezers line the back of the shop with more food options for those with specialist nutrition needs.

The small beauty section also catches my eye – as it sells a few natural and organic cult beauty brands such as Burt’s Bees and Pacifica.

Verdict: 10/10

Personal Attention

As I walk in, two staff members are busy serving customers on the till, but both make an effort to smile and say hello when I glance in their direction.

I browse the treasure trove of healthy goodies for about five minutes, until the male member of staff walks past me on the way to the stock room and makes eye contact. I take the opportunity to ask for his recommendations for natural remedies for athlete’s foot in pregnancy. He admits that he doesn’t know much on this topic, but suggests I could try tea tree. I thank him and he lets me know he’s on hand if I have any other questions, then I continue browsing.

As I drift around the store, I spot a selection of curcumin supplements and ask the same staff member for more advice. I explain that a family member is suffering with arthritic pain and that I’ve heard turmeric can help lower inflammation. He clearly knows his stuff on this topic and starts explaining the options and the differences between them. He recommends a potent curcumin and black pepper supplement, explaining that the latter helps with the absorption of the spice to make it more efficient.

Verdict: 8/10

Check Out

When I’m ready to make a purchase I head to the tills, where one other person is being served, and am greeted by the staff member I spoke to earlier. He cheerily asks if I found what I was looking for, then scans my items, asks if I need a bag and takes my payment. He finishes by saying he hopes the supplements help my relative and wishes me a good evening.

Verdict: 9/10

Overall Impression

As a reminder that you shouldn’t always judge a shop by its store-front, this place was far more professional and high-end than the impression given by its cluttered, hippie-esque store front.

I visited late on a Saturday afternoon and there was a steady stream of customers, but it was definitely on the quieter side. The space was neat and tidy with well-stocked shelves and perhaps more impressively, the staff were extremely perky and helpful, especially considering they were less than an hour from clocking off for the day. I found the store welcoming and easy to shop in, with friendly staff who offered assistance without being overbearing. I would definitely shop here again.

Verdict: 9/10

Total marks: 42/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...