Secret Shopper

Better Retailing Awards

The first round of Secret Shopper exposés of the best and the worst in independent health food retailing is drawing to a close. We've seen some excellent stores and some that could do better.

We'll tot up the marks and announce the 2012-13 winners in our next issue. Meanwhile, our Secret Shopper has been across the Irish Sea..

Store location: Ireland
Issues enquired about: Hay fever and skin rash for child, and help with PMS problems

First Impressions

The shop seemed inviting, but it was unclear what kind of health store it is – I later discovered that it’s trying to be a bit of everything and does not specialise in any one sector.

Outside there was a bin with a special offer for gluten-free pasta and a promotional table on Solgar Omega Advanced Blend 2:1:1 giving out samples and leaflets. One window featured Solgar products and the other one Dr Hauschka skincare products.

On entering the store I found tidy wood-look shelves and cupboards. It was very clean and uncluttered.

Verdict: 7/10

Store Layout

Lots of promotions and information, in particular leaflets for acupuncture and different types of massage that take place in a therapy room at the back of the store.

Considering the huge range of products on sale, this is not a massive shop – there is room to breath because it is very well organized, with a good balance between food, eco-household, body care and supplements.

Verdict: 9/10

Personal Attention

I was approached soon after I entered the shop by a young lady who listened attentively to my needs and was happy to help. She wasn’t desperate to sell me anything. I felt that I could trust her; she was very well informed and aware of the responsibility of her work.

She seemed very knowledgeable and advised me to seek advice from a pharmacist or GP before she would recommend taking any of the female multivitamins devised for PMT, because anything that helps to balance the menstrual cycle could interfere with medications including asthma inhalers.

Verdict: 10/10

Check Out

The same lady served me at check out. I felt that just over 20 euros for six items was good value and was happy to part with the money.

There were leaflets beside the till that I picked up and read later. I wasn’t offered a newsletter and no website was mentioned. I would like to return in the future, this time having checked out whether it is OK for me to take certain natural products.

Verdict: 7/10

Overall Impression

The store wasn’t massively busy, so everyone who needed help got plenty of one-to-one attention and advice. I felt welcome and helped, and I would recommend the store to friends

Verdict: 8/10

Total marks 41/50

What the Secret Shopper looks for

When one of our Secret Shoppers comes calling, they’ll be asking about a specific problem, condition or diet requirement that requires knowledgeable staff responses. There are five sections to the Secret Shopper report, each carrying a maximum of 10 marks:

  • First impressions: The store location, shop front, window etc.
  • Store layout: stock levels, promotions, information, space, product balance, look and feel.
  • Personal Attention: Welcome, staff appearance, attentiveness, knowledge and professionalism.
  • Check Out: Service, additional offers, follow up offers, efficiency.
  • Overall impression: Did the experience make the Secret Shopper want to return and recommend to friends and family?

Total marks available: 50

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Previous Secret Shopper Reports