King’s Lynn has plenty to see by bike, on and off road. Mystery Shopper headed to the town in search of a touring bike...

Was Mystery Shopper treated like royalty in King’s Lynn?

Halfords: 2/5
Arriving during a busy period where shelves were being restocked and staff largely unavailable Mystery Shopper had to question whether he’d entered before hours when most stores would be reloading.

It was in fact mid-day and with plenty of customers being ignored on the main shop floor Mystery Shopper waded through to the cycles department. The cycle area was a little less hectic and straight away I noted a common Halfords sight, three staff behind a tiny counter. Luckily the staffer not tinkering with workshop jobs greeted me and advised that my budget would more than cover me for a tourer fully kitted out from the off. What’s more, Halfords’ care package was mentioned to me should I need a mechanic to handle my maintenance.

That’s where it stopped though. The assistant was largely clueless on the touring sector, neglecting to mention panniers, or any other gear suited to expeditions and lengthy spells on two wheels. I was told that I needn’t really be spending £500 to obtain a bike built to last. It really wouldn’t hurt to upsell one though, given that’s my quoted budget, surely?

Surf 55: 4/5
Displaying ‘certificates of excellence’ from your suppliers is always an encouraging sight and one I was greeted with while browsing Surf 55.

Though primarily a surf and bicycle store it was refreshing to see a variety of stock drawing in custom from skateboarding, the trend that won’t go away of scootering and many more – an indication of how ‘with the times’ the store is.

Having waited my turn during a high footfall period, the assistant neglected a break between customers and reverted from selling some kind of wet suit, switching in an instant to a strong pitch on a Marin bang on my budget. Presumably Surf 55 receives a variety of customers and plenty of them, because the assistant had a very polished routine, which resulted in a few earmarked options in a catalogue, along with a strong recommendation, as well as mentions of add on accessories required for long distance cycling.

At the time it had occurred to me that the store was perhaps slightly over-cluttered and thus a turn off for some customers, though this was prior to my visit to A E Wallis.

Anglian Cycles: 3/5
Town Centre-based Anglian Motor Cycles, or King’s Lynn’s Cyclelife if you’re going by Google’s info, was surely the largest in town, though appeared to split its business between cycling and motorcycles.

Met by an elderly gentleman in workshop garb soon after entry, first impressions were strong. The assistant began to discuss the heritage of the Esperia brand, firing off many reasons why a bike by this manufacturer could be trusted. Alternatives slightly off-key to my brief were offered to me, though the helper seemed to read Mystery Shopper’s preferences well and began to sell the Esperia road bike, which though slightly under my budget, would satisfy the brief if a few accessory add ons were upsold.

Sadly, this is where the pitch fell down. Explaining my desire to tour, the assistant neglected to mention the variety of accessories within his stock, nor were the mounts for such items pointed out to me.

I have to give it to the helper though, he did a fantastic job otherwise in terms of sharing knowledge, delivering it in a jargon free manner and generally being a big help to a ‘first time’ buyer.

Richardsons Cycles: 4/5
By far the best presented store in town, Richardson’s door buzzer summoned an assistant from the workshop on entry who was very sharp and structured with questioning – asking budget, intended use and how seriously I foresaw myself taking cycling.

Our conversation carried on down a very structured path, with price points and value for money within each very well covered. What’s more with an indication drawn from me that my budget may be flexible, the assistant began to upsell well. However, along with each upsell came the offer of a discount, on current year models, with no haggle on Mystery Shopper’s part. These were largely to the tune of £50, though the further I was upsold, the greater the discounts became, which seemed like wasted effort to me.

Personal use of each model was key to the assistant’s pitch and as a result I was advised to avoid certain models within the range. Having this advice worked very well hand-in-hand with the sales pitch, though was perhaps a little over-cooked given that I was a ‘first time buyer’. Jargon began to trickle in that may very well have lost the less bike-savvy customer.

A E Wallis: 2/5
I spent ten minutes browsing within A E Wallis’ large scale shop, which was split between household appliances and bicycles, before mistaking a delivery man for a staff member. Luckily, the parcel-carrying messenger advised that the store’s owner is often ‘out the back’ and to shout for help. Would a customer unfamiliar with this shop be expected to hang around until he help appeared, I wonder?

Once the delivery man had handed me over, I found the assistant to be chatty and extremely interested in helping his customer. Moving onto bike sales, I was advised that though little was in stock to match my brief, plenty could be ordered, triggering an informative and educational chat about touring bikes and with hints about price points and value for money thrown in.

I have to concede that the presentation of the store was a distraction, however. It was perhaps one of the messiest seen in Mystery Shopper’s UK tour. My inkling is that many customers would leave based on the neglect of a good hoovering alone. Otherwise, the assistant was knowledgeable, friendly and made a good effort to sell bang on budget.

Perhaps Mystery Shopper developed some form of OCD for cleanliness and organisation in the past month, though given the state of the mystery machine’s tyre-marked and Lion Bar wrapper decorated interior, I’d say that’s unlikely.

No, in fact, the levels of presentation in Kings Lynn, to quote an over-used regional pun, were nor-folkin’ good! A E Wallis was perhaps the worst of the bunch, with a counter area stacked with more useless paperwork that a certain editor’s desk. The floor was covered in off cuts, torn cardboard and lots of things to make your more sensitive customer want to leave.

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