Occupying perhaps the smallest of the stores visited and specialising in triathlon, Mystery Shopper hadn't anticipated much aside from some advice on where to visit for a cross country rig.
That's why on entry I was pleasantly surprised to find a mid-priced Felt XC bike taking pride of place. "I'm diversifying a little," said the store owner who kicked off a friendly conversation about model years and having been convinced by the Felt rep to stock a model or two.
The assistant was fluent and friendly, though the sector was clearly new to the store, so descriptions and advice were limited and I was recommended to browse the brand's website for better information on what I could achieve for my quoted price.
It was one of the quicker exchanges of the day and limited in terms of what could be achieved from the visited, though the assistant had a very polite and attentive manner – and that's good enough to leave customers with a good impression of a store.
St. Albans Cycles
on entering this store it was mere seconds before the staffer emerged and asked if I needed help.
From the outset it was clear this would be one of the better visits of the day. The showroom's presentation was spot on and the assistant listened carefully before making a recommendation. My indecision between full-suspension and hardtail lead to further questions about my use of the bike and explanations of why a hardtail '”makes you a better rider”, though “a full-suspension bike makes for a more forgiving ride”.
The assistant also explained some points on technology, explored a few price points and offered a few models at discount thanks to a dated model year. A cut of around £300 was offered without my asking, which would no doubt be appreciated by a genuine customer who may develop a store loyalty as a result of the non-price-tagged deal.
Reassuring me that the model I'd shown an interest in had been well received by the consumer magazines, I felt the sales pitch to be very strong.
Okay, so the majority of performances weren't decapitation worthy, Halfords aside, but there were by no means any star performers. The pick of the bunch would be St.Albans Cycles, the last visit of the day and the only store that may well have secured a sale. Halfords wasted too much of my time on this particular visit, with 20 minutes spent shuffling among staff on both the mezannine upper level and the ground floor, to no avail. Triathlon Zone, Addiktion Cycles and Rock and Road Bikes all performed reasonably well, though none went beyond the call of duty to inspire a sale. Given the time of year and the imminent model year switch, deals galore were offered to Mystery Shopper, some agreeing to some heavy margin cuts. I didn't ask for a discount, so why sacrifice your hard-earned?