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Make Evans Great Again: Evans Cycles investigating "re-purposed" Instagram account (plus exclusive Q+A)

Retailer believes lone wolf ex-employee is behind recent posts - but road.cc has been told otherwise by person involved, who gave us more details in an exclusive interview

Evans Cycles says its legal team is investigating an Instagram account belonging to one of its stores which it says was “re-purposed” by an ex-employee, who renamed it Make Evans Great Again. However, road.cc has been told that a number of current employees of the retailer are involved in the account, where recent posts have highlight grievances relating to management and working conditions.

Live blog: Anonymous employees launch Make Evans Great Again Instagram account

The Instagram account was initially set up for the company’s store at Gatwick, where the retailer also has its head office and main warehouse, with the last official post made in June last year.

At the end of December, however, new posts appeared that were highly critical of the company and its management. Through Instagram’s direct messaging facility, road.cc has been in contact with the person currently accessing the account, who says they are currently employed by the company and is not acting alone.

Evans, however, believes that the hijacking of the account is the work of one person acting alone.

A spokesman for the company told road.cc: “We are aware of the Instagram account in question as it was a store account that was accessed without permission and re-purposed by a former employee, who we believe is acting alone in this campaign.

“It's now with our legal team and Instagram as we aim to restore the account to its intended purpose. We have internal processes for colleagues to raise their concerns with us directly.”

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct bought Evans out of administration in October 2018 after the business collapsed due to a combination of factors including cut-throat competition from online retailers, soaring overheads including staff costs and store rents and debt following a succession of management buyouts.

Since Sports Direct took over the business, a number of stores have been closed, including several in London, although the employee, speaking to road.cc anonymously, told us that he and a number of colleagues believe the problems go back further, as outlined in the Q&A below.

Other issues flagged up but not covered in the Q&A include alleged lack of access to the Cycle To Work scheme for employees on minimum wage, fears that Evans may adopt Sports Direct’s staff discount scheme, which provides less generous discounts than the trade ones they currently receive.

Concerns were also expressed about what was claimed to be an “outrageous” amount of wastage in the business, whether that be helmets “smashed and destroyed” from stores that are closing down, or the amount of paper and cardboard wasted, which was described as “unbelievable.”

The Instagram account’s new name, of course, is a tweak of Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, and was coined as a “bit of banter” by an assistant manager at the company’s Gatwick store.

We’re told that customers and staff loved it but, not least due to the associations with Trump, management didn’t – whereupon, the employee concerned got a cap made in the company’s green and gold colours with the words Make Evans Great Again emblazoned on it.

Indeed, the caps are said to have proven so popular, with so many people requesting them, that a crowdfunder has been set up on Go Fund Me to produce more of them.

The Q&A appears below, and clearly comes with the caveat that we are unable to verify whether the Instagram account is as Evans says being used by one person who is an ex-employee or, as is claimed, is being operated by a number of current employees acting together; since receiving the company’s statement this morning, we have contacted the person again and they have reiterated that they do currently work for the business and that others are involved.

road.cc Can you summarise all the issues make Evans Great Again has with the business?

Make Evans Great Again (MEGA) As cyclists ourselves we love working around bikes and products, but the majority of us find it very frustrating that the people directing the business know absolutely nothing about the industry or products we sell.

We are frustrated by how little investment the company makes on its staff and how we are dictated to on a daily basis whilst working for peanuts and also how the company cannot take any honest feedback from its staff.

road.cc How many people are involved in Make Evans Great Again, and what level are they operating at?

MEGA There are a few of us involved in this actual account and we have support from people all across the UK from most Evans stores and departments in Gatwick (head office, warehouse, store etc) which is fantastic because it’s all of us that make Evans great!

From store managers to mechanics to cleaners, you name it, everyone is agreeing on one thing and that is to MAKE EVANS GREAT AGAIN, especially those in the company that have worked here for over 20 years; they have seen all sorts of changes in the business and they say right now it’s some of the worst they have seen.

road.cc Did all the problems start with the Sports Direct takeover, or did things start to slide before?

MEGA A lot of people assume Sports Direct is the main source of our problems when really they have barely touched us as a company. Sure, we are now selling some of their low-end stuff which isn’t great, but the big issue is we are being run by the same people who almost took the company out of business back in 2018.

Since then we have had a Sports Direct CEO but they haven’t been about for us to say anything positive or negative, we hope they get rid of the current directors as they are the ones destroying the company. And since we’ve been taken over things haven’t exactly gone uphill, if anything it’s still going down.

road.cc What are specific examples of the poor products been brought into Evans stores as alluded to in one of your posts?

MEGA Evans was known to be a place where you can get the best brands you wanted at a good, competitive price but now Evans focuses more on buying cheap, cheap, cheap.

We don’t know if it’s because the buying team are just bad at maths or whatever, but they really let the company down with their arrogance and think they are better than everyone else.

Their communication across the company is appalling whether it be not letting the warehouses know what’s going on with stock they have coming in, or to the stores when they are chasing up back orders etc.

Since the takeover we have seen brands like Schwinn, Viking and Muddy Fox along with cheap clothing brands like Sugoi. No store wants to sell these brands, it’s embarrassing for stores to sell Viking bikes and a week later the customer comes in with broken frame or fork yet the store is forced to display these bikes.

road.cc Have people left because they are unhappy, or have there been redundancies?

MEGA So many good talented people who have a real passion for cycling have left the company because they were not getting the money they deserved and were treated like trash.

The company does not like progression and will keep you working on a lower wage for as long as they can.

Some people have even gone to places like McDonald’s because the pay is much better! How can we pay less than these places when our staff are expected to know so much about what they are doing?  One of the store’s best mechanics left because they couldn’t pay him an extra 30p!

As far as redundancy goes the warehouse got hit hard with the news they would be made jobless early last year.

Then, when the company realised they were going to have to pay thousands out to their staff who had been in the company for 10-20 years, they hoped most of the warehouse would quit before it came to redundancy as they would save thousands of pounds but that’s wrong; they are playing with people’s lives, some of these people have families to look after but the company doesn’t care.

road.cc What should the company do to address the problems you perceive it has? (an action plan, if you will)

MEGA Most of us at Evans would love to see the higher levels of management go and be replaced with new minds who are into the business and industry and are not just corporate robot yes men/women, from area managers to head of retail to directors they need to change.

We understand this won’t happen overnight but Sports Direct needs to have a proper think about it and listen to their staff because they are on the front line every day and see the problems, whether it’s in stores, warehouse and even up in the offices!

More listening to people and less dictating because we have people in charge who don’t even know how to run a bike shop and they have even said that themselves, so why are they being paid so much money? We just want the message to spread because Evans have tried to silence us so much it’s ridiculous.

We are a bike shop and we have good customers who are loyal to us. They see past all the bullshit and know we are good people working here, like in a lot of bike shops across the country. This sort of thing doesn’t just happen in Evans, it’s in most corporate bike shops like Halfords and Cycle Surgery which all have the same structure and it doesn’t work.

We see so many CEOs and directors come and go as they take the company downhill and move on to the next business and we as the workers get the rough end.

That’s why we had enough and want to raise awareness and hopefully get listened to for once.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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