During September, BikeBiz sent its man of mystery out and about in the capital to snoop on some West London stores and rate each on their presentation and sales performance.
Not all outlets visited shone on a day of mixed weather in the Capital. Mystery Shopper did, however, encounter what he considers to be the perfect in-store experience. Could it have been your store that impressed in the land of the ‘Boris Bikes’...?
Cycle Surgery, Kensington:
With the bikes located in the basement of the store and two staff members standing idly at the top of the stairs, Mystery Shopper’s visit began with parting the two to gain access to the bikes. This perfect opportunity to ask if I needed assistance was, however, not taken and I was left to stand in the basement for ten minutes before a forced interaction.
When Mystery Shopper enquired about converting a stylish singlespeed to run gears, I was advised there was no need to do that for city commuting. Fair point, assuming I planned to commute. But terrain wasn’t specified, gearing was. Besides, there’s opportunity for an up-sell here. A missed one.
Rolling with the assistant’s assumption, we discussed the difference between singlespeed bikes and fixed gears, with the later being touted as ‘dangerous’. As an impartial customer it’s nice to have this advice, but does negate the purpose of stocking these models.
BikeBiz’s man of mystery wasn’t recognised, despite profiling this store once in the past, meeting the very same staff members.
This visit went as Mystery Shopper has always envisaged a sales experience should. I was met on entry, my brief listened to before the budget was asked. The assistant then up-sold me by a cheeky £50 to £100 with concise explanation of why the investment was worth it.
The store itself scored top marks too – uncluttered and with gentle reggae music creating a smooth atmosphere and two staff visibly on hand to answer queries.
The recommended Giant model was explained to me without jargon, but with accurate descriptions of materials, weights, expected riding posture and likely longevity. Even the technical reasons behind the selection of a carbon fork were offered.
Gearing was detailed on both this racey build and on an alternative model offering a less aggressive ride, something he explained was more suited to relaxed rides to work.
Concluding with the offer of a test ride, this visit to Cyclopedia was – by a great margin – the very best of Mystery Shopper's retail visits since the series began in June 2009.
For every good experience Mystery Shopper has, typically the following visit sits at the opposite end of the scale. Sadly, this was no exception.
Despite being the smallest of all the stores visited and not stocking many bikes at all, the first impression was in fact a good one. Politely asking me to “hang on one moment”, I expected that the assistant would then be easy going and continue to offer a polite delivery to this particular customer.
Turning his attention to me again shortly after overseeing a bottom bracket bashing, the assistant asked if I was looking to buy secondhand or new, to which I replied: “Either, as long as it goes”.
The comeback was a short, sharp: “We have nothing at this time.” And that was it, his back turned and the visit concluded. No offer of when to check back, no advice on where to look or what I should look out for.
I specified only an A to B bike for London cycling. To be offered nothing constructive with a brief so open was highly disappointing. To be dismissed in record time without anything positive achieved was pretty poor.
Evans, Notting Hill:
In a prime spot on Notting Hill’s High Street it was hardly surprising footfall was high, thus it took a short while to be seen. Ample stock of bikes within my brief kept me browsing, however, so Mystery Shopper feels a real customer may have hung about to be seen.
Once staff members were free I was quick to be directed to the shinier bicycles in store, which thankfully were not as pricey as they looked and so fitted the quoted budget. The staff member appeared less enthusiastic about fixed gear bikes, stating they can be difficult to handle. Fair advice, but again, why stock the models if your staff choose not to promote their sale.
Mystery Shopper was also guided through a selection of Bianchi bikes carrying more complex features, some of which were explained, others such as the trigger shifters were not, despite my ‘playing dumb’ act.
To conclude, odd details about features were offered. A good job by the sales assistant, but a little patchy and I’ve seen better from Evans.
Fudges Cycle Store:
It took a while to be noticed in Fudges Cycle Store, though this is more than likely due to what appeared to be the store’s lunch hour. Mystery Shopper is also uninterested in the wider world while eating, so I gave it ten minutes of browsing before pushing to be seen.
Once met by an assistant, the visit proved worthwhile, with careful consideration given to comfort and efficiency of various bikes meeting my brief. It was explained that manufacturers shaved weight off racier models making them sexy, but prone to damage on potholed streets. It was therefore justified that the recommended model was more of a relaxed geometry.
A flat-barred road bike was also offered as a compromise between good looks, speed and comfort. The pitch was strengthened with mention of the Kevlar strips in the tyres, minimising the need for puncture related repairs and, most importantly, features that will "save me money in the long term".
The assistant concluded that they would size me up for a bike once I’d given it more thought and was ready to buy. A very enjoyable visit.