Cycling retailers could do a lot more to attract and retain female customers, admits the Association of Cycle Traders, in support of Sustrans' mystery shopper initiative.
The industry body is right behind Sustrans' latest effort to attract more women to cycling by challenging them to take to the high streets and mystery shop their local cycle stores to test their female-friendliness.
The charity believes the bike trade could be doing more to help the 79 per cent
of women who don't cycle and, luckily, the bike trade agrees. Mark Brown, of the Association of Cycle Traders, told road.cc he was in full support of Sustrans' mystery shopping initiative, saying: "We're very supportive of the idea as long as it's fair and balanced and we get the opportunity to see the results and communicate them to our members. We definitely want to make bike shops better places for women. At the moment we're probably not doing a good service for 52 per cent of the population."
Women are being asked to visit their local bike shop to assess factors such as the
approachability of the sales staff, the range of products on offer and the appearance of the shop.
Shoppers can log their experiences (anonymously if they prefer) on the Sustrans Bike Belles website www.bikebelles.org.uk.
Brown says it's only in the last few years that cycle retailers have started considering their female market, and there's still a long way to go. He says: "We need to make bike shops and products a lot more accessible both in terms of look and feel, making things more fashionable and comfortable."
Mystery shoppers' observations and suggestions will be passed back to the bike trade who are already looking at ways to reach the un-tapped female market. Melissa Henry, Sustrans' Communications Director explains: "There are many reasons why women don't cycle, from concerns over safety to feeling too self conscious. While the bike trade excels at promoting to the experienced cyclist who knows what they are looking for it, may be a bit more off-putting for women who are new to the whole experience. If women feel comfortable in a bike shop they are more likely to want to buy something and get out on two wheels."
Geoff Giddings of Raleigh says: "Raleigh has in the last year seen the growth in product aimed at both the female enthusiast and the mass cycling market. We identified where we needed to change and now have a female graphic designer to
ensure our brands are both practical and appealing to the female consumer. "
Peter Skelton of retailer Cycles UK adds: "We have started to create female specific areas in our shops where all women's bikes, clothing and accessories can be
displayed together. Basically what it boils down to is treating female cyclists as almost a separate customer base with their own needs and requirements rather than
just giving them the same products and services as male cyclists but painting it pink."
Everyone contributing their ideas to Sustrans before June 21 will be included in a prize draw to win a floral shopping bag style bike pannier from Basil.
For more on the Association of Cycle Traders, go to www.thecyclingexperts.co.uk
Further information about Sustrans, including other news releases and detailed online route mapping, is available through our website: www.sustrans.org.uk