Secret Shopper Report: West London

Fabulous bijou store

Our Secret Shoppers are scouring the highways and byways for the best of GB’s health food and natural lifestyle independents. They’re looking for the perfect 10 in each of five sections and haven’t found it yet. Here, our spy is in West London.

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 London
Issue enquired about:
Feeling stressed and weary

First impressions

This very chic, bijou little store is situated on a very famous, iconic street in West London that draws visitors from around the globe. The shop is at the quieter end of the long road, among other independent outlets. It is set back from the main drag, which means you can calmly step back and check out the exterior. This experience is enhanced by the frontage, which is entirely glass giving the impression of a glass ‘cube’.

The store is an homage to minimalist, clean design, created to an exact specification. The floors are polished stained wood and the shelves match; the paintwork is a calming taupe. A modern and seamless symmetrical space. There is no busy POS screaming promotions, and it’s the products, sleekly lined up like soldiers on their custom-made shelves, that create the colour and decoration for this stylish canvas. This is a light, airy store, whose ambience and soothing fragrance beckoned me to browse!

Verdict: 9/10

Store layout

This has to be one of the easiest health stores to navigate. Because of the natural décor, the glass, and the symmetry of the layout, its uncluttered nature makes the grazing experience go smoothly. The products unfold invitingly, easy to identify. Somehow they all seem to harmonise and complement each other.

Less fuss in-store means easy to spot labels. And just about every aspect of a holistic lifestyle is catered for, from head to toe. That includes botanicals, supplements, homeopathy, skin and beauty care and sleep products. Brands to pamper the local demographic include Viridian, Bio-Health, BioCare, Terra Nova, Nutri Advanced, Bach and Bodytox Lavender Sleep Patches. For beauty, there’s Lavera, Dr Hauschka, Jason, Aubrey, Green People, Weleda and Barefoot Botanicals.

There’s a fantastic food complement too, with treats such as Ombar chocolate, Comvita Manuka honey and a lovely selection of teas and cereals. Among the inviting chillers at the back of the store is a rainbow of yoghurts, Booj-Booja ice creams – and Amy’s Kitchen for healthy convenience. Elsewhere, for those who (naturally!) like no-nasties homeware products, a section dominated by Ecover.

Verdict: 10/10

Personal attention

There is only one member of staff, but I think others may have appeared from the office if needs be. I am not approached until the end of my visit, which is fine by me, as I could take in all the products, and this store is fully stocked with a great choice of familiar brands and a few more niche choices.

I had visited for a specific product, the adaptogen herb Rhodiola, which I know Viridian manufacture. I spy the product in the Viridian section as I enter. I tell the girl (very young, smartly dressed) that I am looking for a botanical medicine to aid fatigue and promote psychological balance – one that I’d read the Russians administered to their Olympic athletes and astronauts. She gets it wrong first time (she suggests Ashwagandha) but we straighten it out.

My impression is that she needs to be more proactive and forthcoming (it’s in a very wealthy area, so scope for healthy turnover) and to learn a bit more about the premium products she is selling. But she is very pleasant and trustworthy.

Verdict: 7/10

Check out

The checkout service is speedy. The cash point is very interesting, with tempting treats and impulse buys including some boho-style pendants with coloured stones. I’d like to go back and check those out. I ask about newsletters or social media and the answer is no, and the girl doesn’t alert me to their abundant e-commerce website either. Nor to the signs on the back wall that point to a plush adjunct clinic downstairs. But she gives me some glossy leaflets and the therapists include a nutritional therapist/chef, naturopath who practises Live Blood Analysis, and a sports and therapeutic massage specialist. I leave with my Rhodiola.

Verdict: 7/10

Overall impression

This is a beautiful little store, like a mini Harvey Nicholls. The shopping experience, the ambience and the delight in all those brands expertly presented is second to none.

But I feel they could be missing out on sales and, from my experience, relying too much on the knowledge of their customers. I will return though and I will recommend it to friends.

Verdict: 8/10

Total marks: 41/50

Read the previous Secret Shopper report here...