Milton Keynes is one such new town, but how do its cycle retailers measure up when BikeBiz’s Mystery Shopper was looking for a children’s bicycle...?
Roy Pink Cycles
Roy Pink Cycles is based just a few miles outside Milton Keynes in nearby market town Newport Pagnell. Located at one end of the High Street, the shop’s eye-catching frontage included a display of bikes and, at the time of Mystery Shopper’s visit, a children’s bike too.
Inside the shop, the bike display was well laid out, with some children’s models on display. A sales assistant approached me after a few moments of browsing and asked about the age and height of the child, before advising that it was preferable to give a proper bike fit.
A recommended 16-inch model was not in stock, but the sales assistant said an order was being made that day. He went on to encourage a sale, saying that a specific model could be ordered in, but was reassuringly non-pushy when told that I’d prefer to shop around first.
I also asked about children’s accessories and was pointed towards the shop’s wide range, including helmets with appropriate graphics and styling. The friendly staff member went on to discuss that a first bike is “all about getting them used to being on a bike,” and before I left the shop I was given a catalogue and price list. Providing friendly, knowledgeable advice, Roy Pink Cycles set the level high for service.
Phil Corley Cycles
Based on an industrial estate in the Stacey Bushes area of Milton Keynes, Phil Corley Cycles was busy taking deliveries and dealing with customer enquiries when Mystery Shopper arrived.
The large store had plenty of stock of high-end bicycles from a variety of genres, although next to such a large selection, those available for children was comparatively limited, with few appropriate models on display for the buying parent.
The timing of the visit coincided with a busy period for the store, and staff members who were clearly busy were afforded very little opportunity to approach any customer who was spending time looking at displays. Product signage was good at the store, however, with prices clearly displayed alongside each model’s key features. Alongside sales and servicing, the specialist store also offered various finance options and a custom bike fitting service.
The bustling store was clearly enjoying a high level of trade, with what appeared to be a high number of returning customers.
Set on a retail park alongside the likes of Comet, JJB and Habitat, this Halfords store featured a dedicated cycle mezzanine level. After a few minutes of looking at the displays an assistant appeared and was happy to answer my questions.
The sales assistant showed me to the relevant section and informed me that the height of the child was a key consideration for selecting the right bike. The range I was shown was priced in the £90 to £100 mark and I was told that while stabilisers weren’t fitted as standard, they could be easily added by the store in time for when the bike was picked up.
The sales assistant went on to recommend that I visited the online store, where there was a larger selection of children’s bikes. I was also informed about Halfords’ ‘Reserve and Collect’ online system. But despite being led to look at the website, the sales assistant also emphasised that they’d be more than happy for me to make the purchase in-store, where they could also measure the child in question. The sales assistant was friendly, took the time to discuss and advise while also explained some of the store’s services.
A few metres away from Halfords, JJB occupies space on the same retail park as its rival. Several bikes were displayed outside the entrance, presumably placed in the key location to remind customers that they also stocked bikes, as well as its nearby rival.
And like Halfords, JJB’s bike offering is also located on a mezzanine level, though here bicycles have to compete for space with gym and sports equipment, from golf clubs to treadmills.
The store had a fair selection of bikes on offer, including 16 and 20-inch frames with super-low prices from £70 to £100. Pricing was clearly marked, but while features were commendably listed, they were located on the back of the ticket, so you had to awkwardly wrestle with each price tag to read those features. The selection of accessories was slim, but the store does provide a bike service offering.
Unfortunately no staff were present on the mezzanine level during the time of the visit and Mystery Shopper left the store without being approached by a sales assistant despite browsing the stock for a substantial amount of time.
It’s hard to miss the imposing Xscape activity centre in central Milton Keynes. As well as offering rock climbing and a snow slope, the centre includes a shopping centre where Evans Cycles is located. The well-stocked two level-store carries racing bikes upstairs, with many other sectors covered downstairs.
Signage in-store was excellent. Price, main features and brand details were clear to see on every bike. The busy shop seemed to have plenty of passing trade and Mystery Shopper made use of a handy display unit that allows customers to browse the online site in-store – a perfect solution in a shop that is busy where the customer is waiting for a staff member to become free.
Sadly, the shop only had a few children’s bicycles available, but a nearby, approachable sales assistant apologised for the lack of available stock and handed me an Evans catalogue. He also advised that I visited Evans’ online site.
Despite the lack of stock on the day, the staff member was happy to answer questions, advising me that many 16-inch frames have stabilisers as standard and that the store held plenty of relevant accessories.
Chaineys Cycles is based at a local shopping area outside the town centre. Chaineys’ website recommends that customers come to the store for face-to-face advice, and that advice and service proved to be of a high standard.
When Mystery Shopper visited, a proactive sales assistant was quick to offer greetings and help. He explained that stock was slightly low for children’s bikes as they’d sold a lot recently, but added that more would be arriving soon. Despite those warnings there was still plenty of relevant stock on offer. The knowledgeable staff member provided advice on the likely correct sizing for the child in question and added that the child’s confidence on bikes would also be a key consideration in the size of bike to select. He added that bringing the child in would be advisable and informed me that the store stocked all the relevant accessories.
Pricing was very clear, and while key features weren’t listed, it seemed unlikely that a customer could leave the premises with any unanswered questions about the bikes on offer, with proactive sales staff eager to help. This local bike shop was staffed with friendly and knowledgeable individuals.
In the main, Milton Keynes’ bicycle retailers provided a good, and in some cases excellent, level of service. The key high achieving stores were happy to dedicate their time to customers even where stock was scarce and a sale was unlikely to be made there and then – surely a key factor in encouraging potential customers to return.
The service, or lack of, from JJB couldn’t compete with local independent dealers – or with national rival Halfords. But overall most of the stores visited by Mystery Shopper provided at least a good level of service. Two dealers in particular – Chaineys and Roy Pink – provided excellent service, while the MK branch of Halfords also gave great customer focus.