Taking the Healthy Route

Independent health store Healthy Route has opened its third branch, a 1,000sq ft unit in the Westfield Derby shopping centre.

Owner Gary Trickett, who worked as a sales rep for years before deciding to “have a go at being a retailer”, explains the reasons behind the new store opening:  “There used to be a really good independent store in Derby called Total Health which had a great reputation – it became a GNC store and then closed down altogether when GNC relocated, so there’s been no good big independent store in the centre of Derby now for well over ten years. I knew there was demand for a store like ours. Bearing in mind we’ve got a shop in West Bridgford – a suburb of Nottingham – and a store in Leicester, the triangle is now complete with Derby. And we live almost in the middle of it.”

As for its location in Derby Westfield, which is the main shopping centre in the city, Trickett says: “We spent nearly two years trying to find the right location and we stumbled upon a landlord who was willing to work with us and be realistic in what he was expecting to get from us, and so we’ve gone for it. One of the reasons we waited for a while is because having a new shopping centre open up in town has altered the flow of people. Whereas Total Health was out on one of the main shopping streets, that’s not so busy now, so we’ve had to consider the location of the unit very carefully.”

The store aims to be about education but also about convenience. “We’re in the city centre, we’re easy for people to get to – we fit into their journey plan. But we also offer a range of products and I like to think that we have a knowledgeable staff base who is able to offer information – which is the key to it.” Trickett describes the store as being almost like a traditional health food shop, with VMS, sports supplements, food and drink, bodycare and aromatherapy sections.

Trickett explains that having only owned the original stores since 2008 he’s only known them in a recession but that they’ve done reasonably well during that period. “Since Christmas we’ve seen sales really pick up quite strongly so that’s given us even more encouragement to come into this unit and open a brand new store.”

“My view is that there’s still a requirement for stores like ours and I wish more of my fellow retailers – instead of having just one store would open multiple stores so we would have more independent stores out there. In actual fact there are quite a lot of retailers starting to do that now.”

Trickett has not ruled out expanding Healthy Route still further in the future. “For us, we feel that locally, within our sphere of influence, there are opportunities to open a couple more stores, so I would like to open more but I’m not going to be like Holland & Barrett and say I’m going to open 60 stores in the next five years! Obviously we’re not a cash-rich business, so the sites that we select have got to be right and have got to return the dividend that we need.”