Secret Shopper Report: Ireland

Try our local seaweed!

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. Here our spy travels to Ireland.

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: West coast of Ireland
Issue enquired about:
Hay fever and insect bites

First impressions

In front of the shop are two chairs and a small table. Two double bay windows – one featuring a beauty offer of a free conditioner when you buy a shampoo and the other a display of free-from foods. On entering the store there is a welcoming scent from an oil burner. My impression is that this is a small but busy store, but not too cramped with stock that there isn’t room to move.

Verdict: 7/10

Store layout

The store has a logical layout and it’s easy to find my way around. This is a very foodie store that is well stocked with a good balance between food, eco household, body care and supplements. The body care and beauty section is excellent with everything you might need including hair dyes, sanitary products, soaps, skin products as well as sample testers for hand cream.

The shop has a good eco cleaning section with refills for cleaning liquids and also a shampoo refill service. There are lots of aromatherapy oils, two brands of eco nappies, lots of tea from top tea makers and two types of infant formula powder.

There are shelves stocked with spices, beans, condiments, local dried seaweed for cooking as well as pasta, grains and coconut oils. The shop is very attractive with a relaxed atmosphere.

In a back room there are fridges stocking fresh fruit and vegetables and chilled delicacies as well as fermented foods. Two freezers have ready-made vegan meals – the beetroot and feta sausages sound yummy. A wall with a wooden frame holding large drums selling quinoa, bulgar, couscous, chickpeas, rice, lentils, seeds, xylitol, muesli, chia seeds, nuts and dried fruit all sold by the kilo is an impressive addition – just bring your own jar.

And for gifts there are candles, oil burners, jewellery or a salt lamp, also sold here.

Verdict: 9/10

Personal attention

When I walk into the store a friendly member of staff at the till welcomes me with a smile. She is dressed simply and neatly. I feel welcome but allowed to have a good look around without being overly observed – she offers advice but was happy to leave me to it. I ask for help with hay fever symptoms and I am shown a stand specifically stocked for this condition. After a discussion I decide to buy Haymax. Next I ask about how to treat insect bites. She looks it up in a reference book which recommends pure lavender oil applied direct to the bite. I find the attendant professional and knowledgeable, especially about tinctures and homeopathic remedies; I trust her advice.

Verdict: 9/10

Check out

At the checkout I realise that there is a coffee machine and small kitchen along the wall behind the till. I had missed the sign for smoothies, herbal teas and coffees, but I am delighted to see this.

Special offers are clearly visible throughout the store and I am impressed with such a wide range of products in a seemingly small shop. I feel that I would be able to find help for anything I might need on holiday. At the checkout there is a leaflet for a local herbalist which I photograph on my phone.

Verdict: 8/10

Overall impression

The store is busy with one customer after another, then a whole crowd of young women arrive at once. It has a nice feel, but I felt perhaps the staff member might have needed some help (a very busy Saturday). I would recommend this store to relatives I know the area well and I will definitely be going back again.

Verdict: 8/10

Total marks: 41/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...