Mystery shopper goes for a wander in Wycombe

BikeBiz's man of mystery seeks a bike suitable for tackling High Wycombe's neighbouring city
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Mystery Shopper's latest excursion say five visits to retailers large and small in High Wycombe. Some perfomed like high flyers, others, Wycombe Wanderers. Mystery Shopper met a mix here – from seasoned salespeople, through to assistants that we feel may have been positively encouraging us to buy online…

Halfords
Prior to being met by an assistant in this branch, Mystery Shopper spotted what appeared to be grips on display punched through the centre with security tags. Interesting.
You’d have expected this to have set the tone for the visit, though surprisingly a young assistant in the bike department approached me browsing a folding Carrera, asking if he could help before going on to make a strong case for the store’s last remaining Dahon.
Playing on the low stock availability, the helper said I should be quick if I wanted to grab this model, touted as ‘probably the best folding build available via Halfords’, at present. This was backed by comparisons against the lower priced folders. It was flagged up that the Dahon has a magnetic closure system, so I’ll not need an annoying bungee cord as would be the case elsewhere.
Size and weight constraints were also discussed with good justification for the higher priced Dahon. Furthermore, two bikes were pulled from the racks with a rough demo on the ease of fold for each. Can’t fault this visit, despite first impressions.

Cycle Care
Thanks to a counter next to the entrance, Mystery Shopper was spotted immediately, with the assistant kindly offering to get the store’s only folding model
down from a suspended rack, despite it being relatively tucked away.
Though the staff member didn’t go as far as to demonstrate the fold, it was explained well, minus the mention of the bike’s folding pedal.
Impressively dropping in a mention of the shop’s policy to always offer a first free service and tune up, I was reliably informed that any work that needed doing could be carried out in-house, though the helper did outline the low maintenance of the build once set up properly.
Aside from touting the after sales service, I didn’t really leave feeling as if I had been ‘sold to’, more an impression that I had just been given friendly advice and an earmarked catalogue – which is perhaps a dangerous game to play given the tendency of many to use such material for online reference.

Rad BMX
Tucked away on a large industrial estate, Rad BMX isn’t the easiest of stores to find and you can’t help but feel better trading could be had on the High Street, given that all other local bike shops took an interest in the 20-inch sector.
Being tucked away from the world didn’t stop Rad’s owner from being one of the best salesmen Mystery Shopper has encountered to date, though. Clearly an avid rider himself, the assistant made recommendations on everything from tyres, grips to bike DVDs from personal experience.
With each question points were made for or against products, all valid and well reasoned. Enquiring about ever-more specific products, Mystery Shopper was directed away from product that “didn’t match up to a competitor’s offering” on a quality basis, but with value for money discussed too.
Notably, the helper was easy to get a conversation going with and this helped no end in solidifying my trust in the store. A good salesman really is worth their weight in gold.



O2W
The only store in town to display bikes on the street as well as in store, On Two Wheels, or O2W, had plenty to stop passing trade.
Another store with a front door facing counter, it took a little more time to be seen, though due only to the high footfall at the time of the visit. Catching an assistant next to a previously unseen folder, Mystery Shopper was advised this Dahon was the last to be available here thanks to a distribution shake up. I therefore began to question about spares should I opt for it, to which some unsure answers were produced. It was at this point that I was directed to the Probike brand, for which just one example was in stock, though more were flagged up. In the short term, this was the surest bet the store could provide me with and I was handed a catalogue. The range and spec of the Probike line wasn’t discussed in great depth, though the assistant made some strong points on value for money, as well as talking about security issues. I was encouraged to look at the brand’s website and return with a chosen model to order in. Again, could encouraging me online be a costly move for this independent?

Freewheelin’
Just a door or two down from a Halfords Metro in the centre of town, it was encouraging to see Freewheelin’s lone staffer keeping busy as Mystery Shopper arrived.
With a workshop on the shop floor it took just a minute or two prior to being seen. Having spotted no folding bikes I left the brief open to ‘cycling in London’, to which the assistant prioritised security and theft concerns. Though some new models were flagged up, the chat quickly moved on to second hand considerations. Pulling two reconditioned bikes from the rear of the shop, I was told that only the trained eye would recognise anything worth stealing on this bike, which despite a plain appearance, was ‘a stealthy steel workhorse’ that’d be ignored by thieves, but would be fantastic for city cycling.
Furthering the already strong inkling that this might be the better of the day’s visits, the assistant used my earlier mentioned budget to upsell extras, which could be bought with change left over. It was explained that in value for money and practical reasons, going down the reconditioned and upgrade route would be the most sensible to satisfy my brief. I couldn’t have agreed more.





Summary
two things that stood out in this visit is the importance of a counter overlooking the front door and how one strong salesman is worth 1,000 mediocre staff. Firstly, a counter in plain view of the door is good practice (where possible) for store security, as well as placing staff directly in front of the customer at all times. If you don’t have a meet and greet policy, at least acknowledge a customer from the counter. Rad BMX and Freewheelin’ highlighted how one staff member can give a shop an identity. If your advertising budget is slim, word of mouth can work a treat for a store’s reputation, assuming staff are consistent.

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