It took some serious shop floor browsing and ticket reading before being seen in this branch and that’s despite four staff seemingly available.
The tickets attached to the bikes suggested an end of model year sale and some displayed a promotional offer where if a customer spends under 500 on a bike they may obtain £50 of free accessories. Over £500 and that figure rises to £100 worth of gifts. I wonder whether this alone could sway a customer.
On the flipside, there’s little excuse for the flat performance given when I approached the counter seeking help. Throughout, the helper was stand-offish, allowing me, clearly a newbie to women’s bikes, to steer the conversation through silences.
The one redeeming feature was the assistant’s final recommendation. Guessing that a beginner wouldn’t be best suited to a racing bike, I was pointed to a more upright build, on sale, though the reduced ticket price wasn’t discussed.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Luciano, having read bad reviews on Google prior to my visit.
My visit did, thankfully, reflect the exact opposite of what I’d read online. The assistant was, in fact, one of the most polite I’ve come across and dealt with my query in a wholly professional and attentive manner.
Spending a generous amount of time with me during an otherwise quiet period, my early interest in the MyVelo label, of which customers can customise the grips and saddle to their taste, was steered toward the Dawes brand as the helper revealed that he was to discontinue the label.
Considering my £400 budget generous for a hybrid, yet the minimum spend for a road bike, the helper advised that a beginner on the roads should always cycle in comfort so as to enjoy the experience, but also develop a taste for cycling before committing to a speedy bike.
The only downside I could pick, however helpful of the store, was the note provided to me at the conclusion of my visit with a bike’s details and frame size written down. Nothing to stop me going on the internet now.
South Bank Cycles
Another polite and strong meet-and-greet had at South Bank Cycles. Though my price range was not asked of me, the assistant drew some strong conclusions on my behalf, contrasting and comparing a £350 Ridgeback over a £450 Trek. Suggesting that build-wise there was little noticeable difference to a beginner cyclist, it was recommended I opt for the cheaper bike and use the saved cash to adorn the bike with accessories and perhaps buy the recipient of my gifted bike a helmet.
Mentioning the store’s three month service, quickly followed by details on warranty on the frame and fork, I felt the assistant had honed in on the Ridgeback and was making a concerted effort to draw me to the bike. The more we talked, the more it was working.
Emphasising the comfort brought about by carefully thought out geometry, it was highly recommended for a newbie cyclist. Though there was little to tie me to a return to the store, for example the ask of a deposit, the frame size needed wasn’t given away – a bugbear of Mystery Shopper and one which can see custom go online very quickly.
I was allowed to browse for two or three minutes before being met at Brixton Cycles, which going by the stock, has an extremely diverse customer base.
The assistant who met me led with the science behind deflecting bumps in the road through a good fork. For the second time, the Specialized Dolce was recommended as the most ideal women’s road bike for London, with its carbon fork and shock absorbing insert. Furthermore, the longer back end was said to be particularly comfortable, suggesting the assistant had ridden the label’s bikes before.
When asked briefly about a pink Brompton in the window, I was informed, quite rightly, that they’re a lot more nimble than they look and, should I be willing to shell out the cash, the investment would be a strong one. It was suggested I bring the partner into the shop for a sizing up, as the store liked to ensure the right bike was bought first go. This would, however, scupper my ‘surprise’.
You can’t help but smile at this shop and its character. A sign on the door, aimed at customers requesting the use of tools reads “no manners, no spanners”.
With an encouraging greet not too far into the store, first impressions were strong as an assistant came from behind the counter to provide assistance. Recognising early the delicacy of my ‘birthday surprise’ situation, the helper advised that if the bike were not liked by the recipient, I could return to exchange, though a refund would not be available. A wise move to clarify that early, I thought.
We exchanged a good chat on the pros and the cons of a pure bred road bike over a more beginner-friendly hybrid. Though specification wasn’t detailed perhaps as meticulously as elsewhere, the assistant did give me a good impression of what the shop could offer me in terms of service.
Pre-warning of an imminent model year switch, the helper suggested I move quickly to secure a bike, I thought hinting at a deposit.
Throughout the assistant was friendly, knowledgeable and gave serious thought to how to best serve perhaps not the most straightforward of customers.
Mystery Shopper’s had plenty of experience of London’s retailers in the past and let me tell you, they’re not all as polite a bunch as visited here. Evans aside, we can’t fault any for attention to detail. I fear on this occasion that the Evans branch just didn’t have ‘interested’ staff. It was a hot day and I got the impression coming from behind the counter was a chore. Apex Cycles scoops top marks, based largely on the logical approach to dealing with a customer ‘gifting’ a bike. Having a concrete policy on sales, exchanges and returns is always a good move as customers can be a pain in the backside when purchases go wrong.