Secret Shopper Report: Kent

An attractive package

Since 2012, our Secret Shoppers have sought out the best (or worst) of GB’s natural health and lifestyle independents. This time our spy has travelled down south to Kent, to ask for help with digestive problems.

Store location: Kent
Issue enquired about: Digestive problems

First impressions

Before I even enter the store I am struck by how bright, attractive and inviting it looks from the outside. Some shops I have visited in the past have busy window displays which conceal the view of the interior of the store, but with this one you can see right inside and it is obvious that the store is very neat and well ordered. With a fresh, green colour scheme and an electronic information display on the front window it has a very modern, contemporary feel to it.

Verdict: 8/10

Store layout

I continue to be impressed by this store as I walk inside. It is very easy to navigate and everything is very clearly laid out. The right-hand wall of the store is dedicated to sports nutrition products and whole foods. The back wall displays an extensive range of natural hair and beauty products and eco-friendly cleaning products, while the entire left-hand wall is devoted to vitamins, minerals, supplements and herbal remedies. There are small display stands in the middle of the store featuring books, CDs and information leaflets. The counter is placed by the display window and features a number of eye-catching point-of-sale items like natural lip balms and organic chocolates.

Verdict: 8/10

Personal attention

There are two assistants in the store, one behind the counter and one on the shop floor. I am greeted by the lady on the shop floor about 30 seconds after I enter the store and asked if I need any help. I explain that I have been experiencing stomach problems for some time, including diarrhoea and bloating, and that my doctor has diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I add that I am keen to try some natural remedies and ask for some advice. The shop assistant explains that she is a complementary therapist and asks me if my symptoms are related to stress. I explain that they have coincided with a period of intense stress and she proceeds to introduce me to the range of Bach Flower remedies, explaining how various remedies can help with different forms of stress. I am a bit surprised as I was expecting to be told about supplements or probiotics, but I listen to her advice. She doesn’t mention any other type of remedy or supplement for stress. She then asks the other assistant to advise me about supplements. The other lady, who is texting whilst standing at the counter, comes over and shows me a pack of Symprove, explaining that it should help to replenish the good bacteria in my gut. I ask if there are any other products she can recommend but she says this is the best one and gives me a leaflet to take away. Given that there are a number of different probiotics on the shelf, I’m surprised that she doesn’t mention them or ask me any questions about my symptoms or situation. (She wasn’t within earshot when I was speaking to the other assistant.) I decide to buy the Symprove but don’t feel that I have been offered much in the way of advice.

Verdict: 5/10

Check out

Check out is swift and easy. The assistant doesn’t ask whether I need any further help and doesn’t offer any other services, although I note that they offer complementary therapies in store. I feel that she may have missed a trick here as it’s something that would interest me. She is polite, friendly and professional, though.

Verdict: 6/10

Overall impression

I was expecting to be impressed by this store, judging by its slick, modern appearance. However, I felt that the assistants could have taken more time to ask me about my health issue and given me a few more options in terms of products. I was the only customer in the store and yet I felt that I was dealt with very quickly. Overall, I was impressed by the look and layout of the store and its wide range of products but I feel that the staff could have given me more personal attention.

Verdict: 5/10

Total marks: 32/50

Read about the winning store in the 2014 Secret Shopper Awards here...