Secret Shopper Report: East Midlands

Mind-boggling selection

Here’s looking at you! Our Secret Shoppers are hunting up and down the land, looking for the best (and heaven forbid, the worst) of UK health food stores. They give marks out of 10 in five categories, here inspecting a bustling shop in the East Midlands.

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: East Midlands
A tired 40-something woman looking for an energy boost

First impressions

The exterior of this store is painted in subdued colours and the paint is peeling a little, but the window display is neat, tidy and eyecatching. One side is dedicated entirely to sports nutrition while the other features promotions for Bio-Kult, as well as products by Quest and A.Vogel. The shop sign indicates that the store specialises in wholefoods and sports nutrition. I can see from outside that the store is very busy and full of customers.

Verdict: 7/10

Store layout

When I step inside I find that the store is bright and inviting. It is extremely well ordered and neat and is divided into aisles in the same way as a supermarket. As I turn right, upon entering the store, there is a display of leaflets, promotional materials and magazines. Moving down the aisle, the chiller cabinets are packed with lots of tasty looking health foods, from flavoured tofu to vegan cheeses. Next is a range of natural and organic cleaning products, again arranged in a very neat manner. The entire back wall is dedicated to sports nutrition, from huge tubs of protein powders to sports drinks and energy gels. The middle aisles are filled to the brim with wholefoods and the selection available is mind-boggling. The counter is on the left hand side of the store, near to the front door, and further down that wall is a wide range of supplements as well as natural and organic beauty products. Two shop assistants are standing behind the tills.

Verdict: 8/10

Personal attention

I am not greeted straight away as the shop assistants are both standing behind their tills. I eventually realise that I will need to approach them to ask for help. I go up to their counter and explain to the male assistant that I have been feeling tired and drained and I am looking for an iron supplement to see if this will help to boost my flagging energy levels. He explains that I could either try tablets or a liquid supplement and guides me to the products he recommends. He suggests some Synergistic Iron by Quest, and explains that because it also contains vitamin C this means that it is better absorbed by the body. He points out that the tablets contain various B vitamins which will also help with low energy. I ask about liquid alternatives and he shows me Floradix, explaining that this is similar but more suitable for those with digestive issues such as IBS. The assistant leaves them with me to make my choice. He is friendly and helpful but I note that he doesn’t ask me any questions about my health, lifestyle or possible reasons for my tiredness and lack of energy.

Verdict: 6/10

Check out

Checkout is very straightforward. The assistant asks me if I’ve found everything that I need and I say yes – I opt for the Synergistic Iron by Quest. I note that there aren’t any products or special offers around the tills. Perhaps a missed opportunity to upsell? The till area is uncluttered and I note that there are more supplements on the shelves behind the assistants, which I hadn’t noticed until now. There is also a small counter to their left, featuring different types of nuts, which has the look of a pick and mix counter. I leave with the feeling that the staff were professional and helpful but there was a lack of a personal touch.

Verdict: 5/10

Overall impression

The store itself is very attractive inside and the wide variety of products on sale is impressive. The only thing that lets the store down is the fact that the assistants stayed behind their counter and didn’t greet any of the customers or ask if they needed help. I would also have appreciated being asked more questions about my health background and lifestyle as I feel this is important in order to find the right product. There was no hard sell but there was a lack of interest in my situation. I would definitely shop here for wholefoods as the range is fantastic but if I needed advice in finding supplements I might be tempted to go elsewhere.

Verdict: 6/10

Total marks: 32/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...