Should a university student opt for a road bike, or a singlespeed rig? That is the question Mystery Shopper popped to Colchester’s many cycle stores. We suspect, based on the immaculate service of one store, we may have been recognised. Did your store provide that perfect retail experience?

MYSTERY SHOPPER: Colchester Part One

Cycle King
On entry, Mystery Shopper waded through the sea of bikes, finding a tidy road bike on sale for £350. It was at this point that I looked for assistance.

With three staff members behind the counter, the fairer sex came to my aid and led me to the cheaper of the store’s road bikes, sharing her knowledge as she pointed to a model in the window. In an industry that is often criticised for its male dominance, it’s nice to walk into a store and have a female staff member lead the way.

A very thorough job was done of selling the lower priced model to me, but what if I had a reasonable budget to play with? Mystery Shopper is consistently lead directly to the lower end products with any request for a bike in Cycle King stores. Come on guys and girls – upsell cycling to me. I haven’t even told you my budget yet!

That aside, and taking into account that the most expensive model was just £350, we can’t fault the retail experience. It would, however, have been better still had I been able to get closer to the desired model, which was hidden among the swathes of stock.

BikeBiz feels that the edge may have been taken off of our ‘mystery’ in this visit due to a badly timed store photo while the window display was being adjusted from within. Our suspicion was only increased due to the absolutely spot on, comprehensive seeing to Mystery Shopper received inside. If, however, the store staff did not spot our undercover reporter, then this may very well have been the best retail experience in the history of our cycle trade snooping. From the outset, both staff members were friendly, offering opinions, advice, catalogues and business cards detailing the ins and outs of where to buy Raleigh. Offering honest advice, including warning me that grip shift gears are a nightmare, the experience was further bolstered with a little bit of background information on Raleigh’s reputation as a manufacturer.

Having spoken in depth about my needs, explaining that flat barred road bikes appeared to be the way forward for casual cyclists and advising me to seek further information on the Cyclelife website, Mystery Shopper genuinely felt bad about leaving without handing over some cash.

In Mystery Shopper’s experience, Halfords staff are often a little shy of leaving the counter, referring to barricade themselves behind the till, where the overheard discussions frequently revolve around bikes.

So, after walking the shop floor for five minutes, I approached the two employees. I began to discuss my needs, to which both offered advice. One of the two expressed distaste for fixed gear bikes, recommending a road bike purchase. Both remained behind the counter until I prompted a quick demo of the gear and brake combination lever on one model.

Once out on the shop floor, the staff member’s demonstrations and explanations were spot on, reassuring me that, with a little push, Halfords’ staff are mostly very good at selling bicycles. Mystery Shopper feels that add-on accessory sales would have required another prompt.

Though not the best of the bunch, Halfords did have a diverse stock, tidy layout and all-in-all provided Mystery Shopper with enough information to take away to make an informed decision on a purchase.

You can read Part Two of the Colchester visit tomorrow here on, or in the April issue of BikeBiz.

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