The second part of our undercover reporter's expedition to Northampton...

MYSTERY SHOPPER: Northampton Part Two

Read the first part here.

The Bike Shed
Perhaps the most enthusiastic retailer Mystery Shopper has ever come across with not one, but two staff members attending to my needs on entry of The Bike Shed.

The enthusiasm was ever-so-slightly overwhelming, however, with both simultaneously offering their ideas, all of which had valid backing. For example, the female member of staff suggested a low step-over folding bike with wide ranging gears, partly for its minimal weight, but also due to its nimble handling.

The team effort did unite a little more as I continued with my brief. As my budget became clearer, a subtle hint was dropped about Fisher’s Lambretta brand which, although above my quoted figure, was increasingly tempting as a solution the more the bike was sold to me.

The duo provided me with a number of catalogue suggestions to take away and topped off the pleasant experience with reassurance that The Bike Shed’s customers are always looked after, even after the sale.

Newlec Cycles
First impressions count for a lot and Newlec’s store was perhaps the most presentable of those visited, with bright, clear signage and a tidy in-store layout.

To access a member of staff Mystery Shopper approached a seemingly busy workshop, which can often be the case on visits. A staff member was, however, quick to assist and justified a highlighted sale model with a strong case for triple ring front gearing, stating that a good range would help weak legs to grow in strength.

Furthermore, despite acknowledging the perks of an electric assist bike, the retailer justified his recommendation again by saying that this wouldn’t help a cyclist progress and build confidence.

A prompt toward a higher budget led to a conversation about what a customer achieves for a greater investment, which would have proved very helpful had Mystery Shopper been a genuine customer.

I left with a handful of catalogues and a suggestion to revisit along with the individual who has the weak leg to properly size up bikes.

Having once again been heckled by a disgruntled and presumably drunk member of the public, BikeBiz’s trade spy is beginning to fear going out in the wild. Luckily, Northampton’s retailers all appeared sober and although some average performances were recorded, each one gave Mystery Shopper at least a few good thoughts to mull over on the journey home.

One thing that hit Mystery Shopper about this visit was the astonishing stock similarities between a few of the stores. Many carried Raleigh, ProBike and Dawes, yet were all within a short journey of each other.

Another point to make is that none of these retailers had their own standalone website, McGanns aside –although this is dedicated primarily to motor related stock. Shocking.

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