MYSTERY SHOPPER: Luton Part One

The lights are on...but are there any in stock? Luton may be better known for its Vauxhall factory, but the Bedfordshire town boasts a thriving university and is only a stone’s throw from some spectacular scenery in the Dunstable Downs. Mystery Shopper shines the spotlight on the town’s cycle retailers...
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Sports Direct
Located in the Arndale shopping centre, Luton’s Sports Direct store appears to have a philosophy of turning over large amounts of stock at low prices, judging by the amount of product crammed into the shop.

The bulging displays hampered Mystery Shopper’s progress through the store, largely consisting of clothing and to a lesser extent sports equipment. Cycle-centric product was hard to find amongst the displays, however, with no signage or any indication that the store carried any relevant stock. Mystery Shopper asked a sales assistant for help and was shown a small selection of relevant clothing, including reflective gear that seemed tailored to the running market.

The sales assistant was unsure whether the store stocked cycle lights and pointed me in the direction of the far corner of the store, rather than taking me there. Perhaps the sales assistant was reluctant to negotiate those bulging product displays? While heartening that cycle-centric product was being carried in the store, the range was limited and the product knowledge was similarly restricted.

JJB Sports
In the same shopping arcade, JJB is centrally located next to a Tesco Metro. A noticable bicycle display in the store’s entrance led to what seemed to be an extended range of bikes in the store – likely due to the busy Christmas period. Providing a welcome contrast with Sports Direct, JJB appeared to carry plenty of product, without overcrowding the shop floor.

After browsing I asked for help at the counter and the sales assistant took me to the lighting range, which was limited but covered the standard bases. The service was good though, and a welcome improvement on Mystery Shopper’s previous experiences with the chain. I asked about the legal requirements for cyclists at night, and was advised that lights were essential for night riding. He pointed out the higher end (but still highly affordable) lights the store stocked and advised they’d be preferable if spending a lot of time riding in the dark. He also pointed to a more basic set, ideal for shorter periods in the dark. The assistant was willing to discuss the products at length, provide advice and ensure the customer got the appropriate product.

Dysons Cycles
According to Mystery Shopper’s research, Dysons appeared to be the only cycle shop in Dunstable (aside from a Halfords store some miles away). Thankfully for the town’s residents, Dysons proved to have a great range of product with top-notch customer service. Located at the south end of the High Street, Dysons carried a good range of bike and accessory stock – far in excess of that offered by JJB and Sports Direct.

Soon after entering the shop, a friendly sales assistant offered help. In an almost textbook example of the more detailed advice an IBD can offer, the sales assistant soon made the distinction between lights that increase a cyclist’s visibility and those that help cyclists see in the dark – particularly in areas with no street lights. I also enquired about visibility jackets and again the assistant took me to the display and explained the differences between the wide variety of products on offer.

Undoubtedly, Dysons Cycles was one of the star stores of the day. With a good range of product and the service and knowledge to back that up, the store and its staff were hard to fault.

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