Mystery Shopper does Shoreham-by-Sea

BikeBiz's secret agent reports back on four south coast businesses with different approaches to sales
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It took our man of mystery a bit of time to find his sea legs on this visit, with just four of the five shops targeted open at the time of visit. With a variety of concept stores, IBDs and chains, which was deemed the best of the bunch when selling a £700 road bike…?

Halfords
The wait goes on to be approached by a staff member in a Halfords branch this year. There were staff on hand and to be fair to the cycle area’s sole member, he was tweaking a customer’s cycle in a workstand. We personally find that the shop floor in the majority of branches relies too heavily on point of sale and a product’s ‘does what it says on the tin’ information.

With this in mind, the handlebar tags don’t do a bad job of luring the customer in, but you try asking it a question should you need help. So interrupting the mechanic, I asked about a BB30 equipped Boardman Bike coming in above budget. Discussing with me briefly my intended use, the bike was recommended to me, but things came a little unstuck when I asked about back up for the relatively uncommon (at least in Halfords) bottom bracket standard. The short answer was that spares might take a little longer than usual to come through and that unsettled me as a shopper.

The staffer on this occasion was knowledgeable, though could have used support as he was seemingly trying to do several jobs at once.

Giant Shoreham
Commanding a prominent position on the junction between the High Street and several routes out of town, Giant’s modern glass fronted store is great to look at.

Encouragingly, before I’d entered the store I’d seen a sandwich board advertising demo days with store staff – always good to see a store promote having a go, whether you are a cyclist or not.

Inside I was met while browsing and having outlined a vague budget to up-sell around, the assistant began to contrast and compare the Defy and TCR lines, explaining one would provide me with a relaxed riding position as road bikes go, while the other was more race orientated. Jargon began to creep in at times, as I led the conversation forwards.

While offered a test ride should I come back with a deposit, there wasn’t much in the way of closing the sale, or mention of after sales service that could have warmed me to the store.

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M’s Cycles
Well stocked and well staffed, M’s met me within moments of entry. To begin with I’d confused my assistant with a customer as she had just come in from a ride, immediately signalling I was in capable hands.

Contrasting and comparing Genesis and Bianchi builds, the helper delivered the facts in a jargon-free manner, explaining how various materials react on the road and how if it were a relaxed ride I’d prefer, the Genesis line was the less ‘serious’ of the pair.

Picking up on my desire to have a build with longevity, the steel Genesis again fitted the brief and throughout the discussion if felt as though I were being sold on reliability and value, over ticket price. The only point where a beginner may have become lost would have been during an explanation of the weight to wear ratio of groupsets.

Justifying the worth of maintaining a bike with regular services, the assistant warmed me to the store by discussing how I could save money in the long run if I invested sensibly now. Happy to chat and address even the most mundane of my questions, M’s did plenty to lure me into a purchase without forcing a sale on me.

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Cyclelife Shoreham (Star Store)
There’s very little, if anything, that we could pick holes in with this visit.

Without giving away the sizing that would allow me to walk away and buy online, the helper detailed the bike impeccably, without too much jargon. Using the £150 discount on the bike, I was up-sold items such as mudguards and cycle locks, for which a Sold Secure rating was mentioned. I could achieve all of these within my budget, apparently.

After-sales service was covered comprehensively, with value for money aspects spread over the two years of free service cover emphasised should I buy from this store in particular.

Gently nudging me toward a sale, I was told that if this bike were to sell before I returned, the next model year wouldn't carry the same discount. It was then explained, as I was handed a business card, that I could place a deposit over the phone. Warranty information settled my nerves about the bikes longevity well and there was little more I could expect from the salesman by the time I left.

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Summary
Unfortunately we just missed catching Webb’s Cycles, which is Shoreham’s oldest cycling business, having been around since 1947.

There were however some sterling visits, with the two outstanding stores – M’s Cycles and Cyclelife – leaving few boxes unchecked. Credit to the female staffer from M’s who managed to effectively sell her line of Genesis bikes having just arrived in from a ride of her own. Breathtaking stuff.

Cyclelife just edges the ‘star store’ award this month though, providing one of the most comprehensive A-to -Z pitches we’ve encountered. From the bike itself, to after sales, add on bits and value for money, the assistant left no stone unturned.

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