Secret Shopper Report: North East

Assistants having an off day?

Our Secret Shoppers are scouring the highways and byways for the best of GB’s health food and natural lifestyle independents. Giving marks out of 10 in each of five sections, our shopper went to the North East where this town centre store was wide of the mark in customer service.

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: North East
Issue enquired about:
Curb sugar cravings / chromium support

First impressions

The store is situated in the heart of the town centre and is quite easy to find. I am immediately drawn to its informative window display. However, my optimistic first impressions are somewhat dampened by the cool welcome I receive when I enter the store. As I walk through the door, I see there’s a deli counter serving takeaway vegetarian food. There are two members of staff behind the counter but neither says hello or particularly acknowledges me.

Verdict: 5/10

Store layout

Unfazed by my cool welcome, I continue into the store and find it is airy, clean and bright. It’s also very quiet! I instantly pick up on the inviting smells emanating from the shop’s café that is situated straight ahead. There’s plenty of room to move between the aisles and the store is well stocked. It features a number of leading natural health supplement ranges such as Solgar, A.Vogel, Natures Aid, Pukka Herbs and BetterYou. I find it easy to navigate my way around the store and see that there’s a good balance between supplements, food, bodycare and eco household ranges.

Verdict: 7/10

Personal attention

There are a couple of members of staff floating around the store yet I am free to browse for as long as I like as I’m not approached at any point. When I give up trying to find the supplement I’m looking for, I head back to the counter to ask the lady there for help. She comes over straight away and leads me to a Natures Aid supplement. I am also advised that they have a Solgar option (although this is not on the shelf as it is a surplus item from a recent order) and I’m asked if I would also like to have a look at that. There is a price variation of around £10 between the supplements so I ask if there’s any difference between the two – I’m advised that there isn’t. I also explain why I’m wanting to buy a chromium supplement but need to check that it is what I need. I find the lady is helpful and particularly informative with explaining how chromium works. She asks if I need any further advice and leaves me to decide between the two – I opt for the cheaper supplement.

Verdict: 7/10

Check out

The lady that provided the advice earlier is serving another customer so as I head towards the till area, a second member of staff jumps on another nearby till and takes my item. There is no polite chitchat and my purchase is quickly processed. I am not offered a receipt or a thanks either. I enquire if the store has an online shop option on their website and the staff member actually asks which website I’m talking about. I explain I mean the store’s website and she says a firm no. I then ask if mail order is available and I am told yes, I can place orders over the telephone. The store’s website explains that it has a thriving mail order business and if they don’t stock a product they can usually get it within a couple of days, yet I am not given this information from the store itself. I grab a takeaway leaflet on the way out so I have the store’s contact information, should I want to take advantage of their mail order option.

Verdict: 5/10

Overall impression

The store has a lot to offer but customer service lets it down. I dearly hope I just happened to catch them on a bad day and that next time I visit, I will feel a lot more valued as a customer.

Verdict: 5/10

Total marks: 29/50

Read about the winning store in the 2016 Secret Shopper Awards here...