Secret Shopper Report: South London

More than meets the eye

Launched in 2012, our Secret Shoppers are seeking out the best (or worst) of GB’s natural health and lifestyle independents. This time our spy has travelled to Brixton, London, to ask for help with knee pain.

Store location: South London
Issue enquired about: Help needed for a persistent knee problem

First impressions

As I approach the store and take in the peeling paintwork, dated-looking sign and tired appearance I feel a bit hesitant about going in. The windows are covered in flyers, notices and posters for all manner of things ranging from complementary therapies to music gigs and items for sale. It’s an odd mishmash which completely obscures the window display and makes it difficult to tell whether the store is even open. Not a great first impression really.

Verdict: 3/10

Store layout

As I walk in I’m very relieved to find that the interior of the store is quite well ordered and neat – I must confess I was expecting to find a jumble of products. The counter is to the right of the store as you enter and above it are shelves stocked with vitamins, minerals and supplements. To the left of the entrance there is a wide selection of wholefoods which runs all along the left hand side of the shop.

I note a good range of organic and free from groceries, sugar substitutes, healthy juices, organic fruit and vegetables and much more. There are two fridges on the far wall containing chilled products. There is a reasonable selection of natural and organic beauty and personal care products as well as some eco-friendly cleaning items towards the back of the shop. The layout is easy to navigate and the products are well ordered. I’m impressed!

Verdict: 7/10

Personal attention

There are two assistants manning the store, one at the counter and one helping customers on the shop floor. The latter seems to be very helpful and keen to help her customer find the products he wants. As she is busy, I head for the counter and start browsing the supplements on the shelves above it. After a few seconds the assistant behind the counter asks if I need any help. I explain that I have a long-standing knee problem which I think could be the result of an inflamed tendon and muscle tightness from when I used to run regularly.

The assistant asks whether I’m having physiotherapy and I explain that I am but I’m interested in any natural products that might be able to help too. She gathers together a range of products including magnesium oil, which she explains will help to soothe tense muscles, omega-3 supplements, which should help with inflammation and glucosamine to aid joint support. She adds that I could take magnesium supplements, but by applying the oil topically it gets into the bloodstream more quickly.

Verdict: 8/10

Check out

These are the types of products my physio had recommended that I buy, so I am impressed with her advice. She also suggests arnica as a natural remedy for aiding the healing process. She asks a lot of questions about my problem and how long it has been going on for, and I get the impression that she really wants to help. I feel that I have been listened to and given a personal service.

Verdict: 7/10

Overall impression

Initially I wasn’t very impressed with the exterior of this store, but once inside I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was well stocked and easy to navigate. The assistant was very helpful and genuinely seemed to care about my problem, which I appreciated. I left feeling that I’d been treated very well. I think it goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!

Verdict: 8/10

Total marks: 33/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...

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