‘Are you taking photos of me?’ So asked a passerby walking in the way of Mystery Shopper’s snapshots.

MYSTERY SHOPPER: Northampton Part One

In fact our man of mystery simply had a job to do and that was to grill the cycle trade of Northampton on what kind of bike would best suit a cyclist with a particularly weak leg. Mystery Shopper sought strong suggestions…

Oakley Cycles
During the first visit of the day, Mystery Shopper is always looking for a staff member to set a high benchmark for the rest of the day’s store snooping.

Oakley Cycles showed promise of this from the moment I walked through the door, although it did fail to satisfy Mystery Shopper’s main grumble by suggesting the cheapest model first.

Admittedly, the £69.99 refurbished cycle that was initially offered was spotless and would obviously serve the purpose. However, this is business and £69.99 seems quite insignificant given the fact a budget of approximately £350 was on offer.

Once prompted, the shop assistant, who was friendly and attentive throughout, went on to discuss how an electric assisted bicycle could help someone with weak legs. However, as with many stores throughout the visit, the employee went on to shoot himself in the foot by saying: “No one really gets on with electric bikes due to their weight.”

That aside, a thorough job was done of explaining the model’s features and capabilities per charge.

McGanns Cycles

Utilising Halfords’ half motor, half cycles concept at an independent level, McGanns appeared to be a business in full swing, as footfall was high on Mystery Shopper’s entry.

Cycles were confined to upstairs, though stock was diverse and covered a few niches, such as BMX. On the upper level, a model to suit Mystery Shopper’s requirements was not immediately obvious. However, a passing staff member came to the rescue and fished out a ProBike perfectly suited to my brief, to which he had listened carefully.

Again, a budget was not asked of me, though the model highlighted this time was not the cheapest on offer, despite the damage only being £200.

As with Oakley Cycles, potential problems were raised when the topic of electric bikes was discussed. “The weight and handling of the bike may be difficult to handle for a woman with weak legs,” I was informed. That’s a fair point, though it’s hard to see the e-bike market ever properly kicking off in the UK with retailers passing on their critical judgements with little encouragement.

Pedal Power
Situated a little way out of town, Pedal Power was nestled among a quiet line of shops where footfall was almost non-existent.

The shop assistant almost seemed surprised to see Mystery Shopper, taking a few moments to ponder my request for help. The first suggestion was to take a look at ProBike’s electric bikes, while thumbing a Powabyke catalogue. Luckily, Mystery Shopper is secretly clued up on what he really meant, otherwise I would have left with poor information. Despite that hiccup, the visit proved educational, with battery technology explained and also the reasons behind the varying prices of electric bikes.

Having established that Mystery Shopper’s budget was nowhere near a grand, the assistant highlighted a few models within a Raleigh catalogue, which I was to depart with. A brief explanation of mudguards and other add-on items such as baskets was made, though no firm attempt was made to secure a sale. The advice received was sound enough, but lacked enthusiasm, therefore I can’t help but feel this retailer didn’t hit the nail on the head given my brief.

Read Part Two here.

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