Posts Tagged ‘Evans’

Dropping performance from the team

August 3, 2016

If you were asked what kind of cyclist you are, what would you say? You might describe yourself as a racer, a road cyclist, a leisure cyclist, or even a serious cyclist. But I would bet your entire collection of bikes – and mine – that you would never say out loud to a total stranger: “I am a performance cyclist.”

I am nearing the end of writing and editing text for the new London Dynamo website, a long process which has involved expunging the “p” word from all our public-facing wording. Internally, Dynamo likes to describe itself as a performance-oriented club, which I suppose is a reasonable expression of how it cultivates a narrow band of high-performing riders which can inspire the rest of the membership and give aspirational or more talented members something to aim for. Externally, though, it can give the impression that we are all data-driven wattage nerds, which most of us are not. Sport-oriented is a simpler and clearer definition of Dynamo.

How did the ‘p’ word become ubiquitous? It’s origin can be traced to a familiar source. “Performance Roadwear” became Rapha’s slogan, even though its co-founder originally thought the term was “a slightly pompous piece of marketing copy” which he bunged underneath the brand’s logo simply to complete its design. Despite this, performance quickly became a way of denoting special features such as ventilated panels or an aerodynamic cut, which meant that the word functioned as a polite way of saying expensive. But the popularity of cycling and the consequent falling prices are now eroding that definition: for less than £45, you can buy a performance jersey and bib shorts from Aldi, and even Rapha’s performance sunnies are a relatively inexpensive £140.

When Halfords, Evans and other Johnny-come-latelys moved into the high-end bike market, smaller retailers branded themselves as performance businesses, targeting riders who were prepared to pay for a tailored, personalised service. Today, physios, chiros, personal trainers and all kinds of small, secondary businesses use “performance cyclist” or a similar term. And in this context, performance provides a useful differentiation: it tells customers they can provide them with an evidence-based explanation of how their body can perform better on a bicycle.

But what works as a branding tool fails to translate on an interpersonal level. Performance is bit like hipster: a word used to define others rather than a term a person would use to describe themselves. And coming from a newspaper background, I choose words a bit like a directeur sportif picks riders. A sentence or a phrase is a team of words working together. Performance doesn’t perform, so it has to be dropped.

No, Evans, you can’t have my postcode

September 13, 2013

I had a small moment of personal liberation on Saturday. I was in a branch of Evans, and the bloke behind the counter asked, “Can I take your postcode, please?” They always ask this question whenever you buy something there, but like a goldfish who turns around and sees the same view he has witnessed two seconds before, I am always surprised by this weirdly personal inquiry. It’s a cheap portable lock. Why do you want to know where I live before you let me buy it, fer Chrissakes?

Invariably I blurt out the answer because, stupidly, I’m caught off-guard by the question. But not this time. “Actually,” I said, “can we not do any of that stuff?”

“Oh. OK.”

And that was that. I bought the lock without having to provide a means of identifying where I live. I experienced the same sense of relief you feel when removing a pair of tight-fitting shoes. I am free! Free, I tells ya!

Sales assistants at Evans are not the only ones to engage in this odd practice. CycleSurgery has also asked me the same question. Jen gave our postcode when she bought me a rucksack from Snow and Rock. And one of my Twitter chums informs me that Brantano, a shoe shop I had never heard of, is also in the business of postcode-gathering (his admirable response: “No, just the shoes thanks.”) But Evans was the first to ask for my postcode, and ten years later, standing in their Fulham branch, I suddenly realised I had absolutely no idea why.

Evans is the Tesco of cycling: most people shop there because it’s convenient, not because it’s a great experience. The comparison isn’t quite true in my case because, as I have previously confessed, I bloody love Britain’s biggest supermarket chain. I give Tesco a huge amount of personal information by owning a Clubcard: not only do they know where I live, they also know what products I like and how often I purchase them. But in addition to speeding up my shopping by allowing me to use their Clubcard-only barcode zappers and providing free Wi-Fi to Clubcard holders (very handy for listening to 5 Live on my phone while I’m pushing my trolley around the West Cromwell Road Enormo-Store), Tesco also sends me frighteningly specific discount vouchers for the things I like. Evans doesn’t offer this personalisation. I’ve surrendered my postcode to the green-and-gold giant for a decade, and all I’ve got in return are the same brochures and emails that everyone gets. From the customer’s point of view, telling Evans where you live is a complete waste of time.

So on Wednesday I asked Evans on Twitter why its shop assistants want customers’ postcodes. They said they needed it in the event of a refund or exchange, but the conversation went dead at their end when I pointed out that retaining the receipt performs the same function. Could it be that this isn’t the main reason?

Here’s my theory. Being a customer of a chain of bike shops is a peripatetic experience: you might pop in to one on your commute and visit another some miles away when you’re on the way back from a ride. And more than a decade ago, Evans began opening more and more branches. These days Evans isn’t just the shop you visit on your way home from a club ride or during your lunch break – it’s probably your local bike shop, too. But how did they know which areas would have a population of cyclists large enough to make an Evans LBS profitable? Perhaps it was because they already knew where their customers lived. You and I provided that information when we gave them our postcodes.

I’ve got nothing against Evans having lots of branches – they provide lots of jobs in a challenging economic climate and their existence gives cycling a greater presence on the High Street. But I’ve already got a local branch, so I won’t be giving them my postcode again.