Secret Shopper Report: Devon

Friendly, approachable and knowledgeable

The page everyone reads first, retailers and suppliers alike, where our Secret Shoppers are scouring the highways and byways for the best of GB’s health food and natural lifestyle independents. Or, heaven forfend, the worst. This time our spy reports from Devon.

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: Devon
Issue enquired about:
Nutrition to fuel marathon training

First impressions

As I survey the exterior of the store, I’m struck with the impression that it could do with a bit of a makeover. The style is somewhat outdated and the doorframe and window frames are badly in need of repainting. The shop window features several different posters advertising seasonal products and a simple arrangement of coconut-themed items from oils to milks and flours. I can see into the shop and note that it looks a little dark but quite spacious.

Verdict: 5/10

Store layout

Entering the store, I see that the products are well organised and the shelves are neat and well stacked. The left hand side is devoted to wholefoods, starting with herbal teas, tea and coffee substitutes, natural sugar alternatives, healthy spreads and condiments, moving on to gluten-free flours, pastas and grocery items. It is a well-thought-out arrangement and it strikes me that it would be easy and convenient to get your weekly shop here.

Moving towards the back of the store, we have sports nutrition and supplements as well as chiller cabinets filled with all kinds of goodies from fresh tofu and vegan pâtés to dairy-free yoghurts and ice cream. The right hand side of the store is dedicated to supplements, natural and organic beauty products and eco-friendly cleaning items. There is a very wide selection of vitamins, minerals and supplements to choose from and I am impressed at the selection on offer.

The natural beauty products are arranged in an attractive way and draw me in to browse through them. The till is positioned behind the shop window and there is one assistant behind the counter who greets me with a friendly smile as soon as I set foot in the door, which instantly makes me feel welcome. The only downside I can think of is that the interior is a little on the dark side and needs to be better lit.

Verdict: 7/10

Personal attention

The assistant behind the till give me a couple of minutes to browse around the store before coming over to offer some help. She is very approachable and seems keen to want to advise me. I explain that I am training for a marathon and looking for suggestions for healthy foods to fuel me on my long runs.

The assistant explains enthusiastically that she is also a runner and asks me about my running history as well as how much I am training and what I am currently using as fuel. I explain that I have been trying energy gels but I am not keen on the fact that they are high in sugar. She guides me to the sports nutrition section and takes me through the various options, from natural energy balls and bars to hydration drinks, protein shakes and supplements.

The assistant goes through the amounts of protein and carbohydrate in the different products, explaining that I need carbohydrates to fuel my runs and protein to help repair my muscles afterwards. She recommends the products that she uses in her own training but I don’t feel pressured to buy anything. She even gives me some suggestions for snacks that I could make myself at home using whole foods, which I am grateful for.

She is clearly enthusiastic about running and nutrition and I feel that I am getting a personal service from someone who wants to help me. I decide to buy some Bounce energy balls and 9-bars as they seem like a handy size to take on a run but I don’t think that the protein shakes or supplements are quite right for me as they seem geared more towards body builders.

Verdict: 7/10

Check out

I thank the assistant for her help and explain that I would like to browse around the rest of the store. After a quick walk round I take my purchases to the till and the assistant rings them up for me, asking me if she can be of any further help. She asks me when my marathon is taking place and suggests that I try a sports massage after the event. She wishes me good luck and I leave the store feeling very happy with the whole experience.

Verdict: 8/10

Overall impression

Although my initial impressions of the store were not great, I soon realised that it was well stocked with a great selection of products to suit all types of customer and all manner of health needs. I was particularly impressed with the shop assistant who was friendly, approachable and knowledgeable. I felt that I received a great level of customer service without any “hard selling” and I came away feeling satisfied with my purchases. I would definitely recommend this store to others, particularly those looking for help and advice on choosing products.

Verdict: 8/10

Total marks: 35/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...