MYSTERY SHOPPER: Canterbury Part One

Are fixies really in fashion? And have retailers outside London got stock to offer to capitalise on the trend? Those are the questions Mystery Shopper asked the bike shops of Canterbury...
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Downland Cycles
Despite being situated on an industrial estate and having a shop front tucked away, Downland cleverly draws attention to its presence with some well-placed signage. Less than a mile outside the city centre, it also benefited from plenty of cycle and car parking space.

Once inside the light and airy shop, Mystery Shopper was swiftly approached by one of the two staff members who informed me that the store stocked three fixie-style bikes, all from the Felt brand. While none of the models were in store at the time of visiting, they were all available for order. After some prompting the staff member was happy to discuss the pros and cons of the fixie bike genre, including the legal requirements of fixies: “one brake is statutory for road cycling.” The staff member gave me details of the three models to take away with me. Overall, despite requiring some prompting the staff member discussed the genre at length and the store could supply the product required (on order). Surely an encouraging sign for a sector that is said to be niche and scarce outside London.

Set outside the Canterbury city walls on a busy bypass, Cyclelife enjoys a great location for picking up passing trade and for keeping in the mind of passers-by. The shop was, however, noticeably dark – almost to the point of appearing shut, in the opinion of Mystery Shopper. Inside the large store, however, the experience was far more illuminating. Products were displayed well with clear signage indicating price, though not with a great deal of info on bike features.

After only a short while of browsing I was asked if I needed any assistance by a staff member who was busy working on a bike behind the rear counter. Sadly he advised that the store didn’t stock fixies, but encouragingly did advise me of some local shops that did and pointed me in the direction of one such dealer.

Despite not stocking fixies, the friendly staff assistant was happy to chat about the sector and when I asked about their popularity he told me that there wasn’t that much call for it in Canterbury, with only a few local stores dabbling in the sector. He went on to discuss how the fixie scene was much bigger in London.

Cycles UK
Just over the road from Cyclelife, Cycles UK is a busy store benefiting from modern premises and a great location. Placed slap-bang next to Canterbury bus station the store is sure to catch the eye of anyone waiting for a bus and wishing they’d opted for a bike instead of public transport. The shop name was emblazoned across the store too.

The store was bustling inside, with an uncramped and well-laid out display of bikes that were easy to browse. Mystery Shopper was quickly approached by the proactive staff who sadly informed that the store had no fixies in stock. However, the friendly shop assistant said that they did get them in from time-to-time, but the infrequent appearance of the genre in store was down to the local market having yet to take to the sector in a big way. On the sporadic occasions that Cycles UK did have fixies in store they were usually put into the shop window – proving they were a draw for customers. The staff member recommended I kept an eye out or popped into the store regularly to see if anything came in.

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