A small independent trader in Coulsdon is reeling from the shock of having £4,500 stolen from them this week, when a “customer” rode off during a test ride on a top-of-the-range bicycle from Energise E-bikes.
It is the first time that the business has suffered a theft of this kind, and something which they say could threaten their existence as a high street retailer. But, for now at least, they are hoping that the public will help in finding the stolen bike, and they intend to continue to offer test rides to potential customers as a core part of their business.
The theft occurred on Monday afternoon, March 9. A man took a test-ride with a staff member but on the return journey to the showroom on Brighton Road, the man turned in the opposite direction and disappeared with the electric bike near the top of Station Approach. It is believed that the thief escaped via Farthing Way.
The e-bike that was taken is a distinctive Scott Axis eRide EVO, a dark green “trekking” electric bike designed to be used for off-road touring. The public have been asked to keep an eye out for the e-bike both on the street and on online marketplaces. Since the e-bike was taken without its charger and keys, it is likely to arouse suspicion if brought into other bike shops.
Energise E-bikes have been trading in Coulsdon since 2012 and have grown into the largest e-bike demonstration centre in the south.
“We’re a local, independent retailer. Unlike the ‘Big Box’ retailers, we can’t absorb costs like this easily,” said Ray Wookey, Energise E-bikes’ founder.
The specialist retailer has built its reputation as a destination store that allows customers to have a personal shopping experience that includes a thorough consultation and test-rides.
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“The test-ride is the heart of our business so we can’t be deterred from doing them. It’s what makes the customers say, ‘Wow’. It’s how we can assess the customers’ riding style, personalise the bike and make sure customers don’t make an expensive mistake. It’s how the customer finds out how their body will react to different models.
“In short all the things that they cannot get from online retailers.”
With Brexit and Coronavirus affecting high street retail across Britain, showroom manager Tony Wade says that despite the theft, test-rides must remain a core part of the store’s business.
“Every retailer on the high street is fighting a huge battle right now. Test-rides are a key part of our fight. If we can’t offer an immersive experience for our customers, we’ll lose out to online retailers,” Wade said.
“Eventually experts like us will leave the high street for good. I don’t think anyone wants experts to leave their high street.”
Undeterred by the chunky financial set-back, the store is hosting an Ebikes for Beginners Brunch this Sunday, March 15.
And anyone who thinks they might have some information on the whereabouts of the stolen bike is asked to contact Energise E-bikes on 020 8660 8823.
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